If fans were hoping to see the trend of cardboard cutouts make their way behind home plate at Nationals Park this season, bad news. It's not happening, and it's a bad decision by the team.
According to the Washington Post, "a lucrative Delta sponsorship and upholding precedent" means no faces or other ideas to fill the empty seats are in the plans. This ensures the Delta logo sitting on each of those blue chairs can be seen for every pitch. Star outfielder Juan Soto wasn't allowed to put those cardboard cutouts of his family there. Instead, the team banished them to left field, his defensive position, for his season debut.
The decision is a surprising one considering in the past you couldn't see the logos whenever their seats were occupied. Even if Delta paid extra for more visibility, the Nationals could easily have added signage elsewhere in the ballpark to allow fans to connect with the team with cutouts. Around the league, fans of other ballclubs have been willing to pay to make this happen.
How about this, put a giant tarp four rows back covered in logos after you have a bunch of pictures of fan cutouts in front. That would accommodate both. Or, what about having all the cutouts with fans' faces hold a sign that says "Delta" on it?
Of course, everyone has to make up for lost revenue during this pandemic, and teams all around baseball are finding ways to do just that. But you also can't forget about everyone that's been there to support you. Like the fans that were there when you were 19-31 all the way to celebrating your first World Series title. That's also important.
Plenty of teams are using this idea successfully. The Blue Jays are stuck playing in Buffalo, and they still made sure to include everyone back in Toronto with cutouts and a promotion calling it their "home away from home". Meanwhile, the Arizona Diamondbacks have teddy bears behind home plate to honor Phoenix Children's Hospital.
Again, people are paying to fill these seats.
The world is weird right now, and we're all trying to navigate it the best we can. I've applauded baseball for trying new things this season, including the unique ways teams are trying to keep some form of normalcy during games. Fake fan noise works, it's not the best, but it gives you a small fraction of that feeling of people actually being there. The cardboard cutouts are another, and they look a whole lot better than empty seats sitting behind whoever's up to bat.
It's a big mistake for the Nationals to stick with this plan, but, even during a short season, there's still a chance to fix it.
The Nats still have time to include everyone, when it's needed the most.
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