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The Syracuse Mets will welcome 2,163 fans back into NBT Stadium on Tuesday for its home opener against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders. The game will be the largest in-person gathering in Onondaga County since before the pandemic.
The absence of Mets baseball in 2020 had implications on both staff within the organization and in the Onondaga County community, said Michael Tricarico, director of broadcasting and media relations for the Mets. Seasonal employees have gone without work, and interaction with fans has been significantly limited.
“(We’re) ready to go do what we do, which is put on a great show and be here for the fans,” General Manager Jason Smorol said.
Upon arrival, all fans will be required to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test. Fans must be 14 days removed from their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or their single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Unvaccinated fans can take a PCR test 72 hours before first pitch or a rapid antigen test within six hours of the game.
Onondaga County and the Mets will provide free testing for fans in NBT Bank Stadium’s parking lot in the days leading up to Opening Day. As of now, nearly 100 fans have already signed up to get tested before Opening Day, Smorol said.
The procedures will be enforced at a designated entry screening area. Temperature checks and a contact tracing questionnaire will also be required at the screening checkpoint along with the proof of vaccination or a negative test result.
NBT Bank Stadium is limited to 20% capacity, and fans in attendance will be scattered throughout the ballpark in “pods” that can seat up to six people. Each pod will be placed 6 feet apart. Although New York state is increasing outdoor capacity to 33% starting May 19, Smorol said the stadium is too small to accommodate that capacity with proper social distancing.
“Our job is to get them in, keep them safe, entertain them, let everyone get back and enjoy themselves,” Smorol said.
Having fans on Opening Day wasn’t always a guarantee, Smorol said. The organization wasn’t sure they were even going to have a season — let alone one with fans — until January.
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Minor League Baseball on March 2 pushed back its Triple-A season from April to May. MLB used the extra month to create alternate training sites for minor league players and cut down on airline travel associated with the minor league season.
While the Mets were disappointed with the season’s delay, COVID-19 cases have decreased and vaccination rates have increased within the county this month, Tricarico said. In Onondaga County, over half the population has had at least one dose of a vaccine.
In addition to the shortened season, the Mets will only face Northeast Division opponents. Each series consists of six straight games against the same opponent in the same venue, with series starting on Tuesdays, allowing Monday to be a travel day. The goal is to reduce travel and potential spread of COVID-19 for all teams during the season.
“It’s time to start letting the community get back out, get a little bit back to normal and see a ton of old friends and faces,” Smorol said.
The post Syracuse Mets set to welcome 2,000 fans for Opening Day appeared first on The Daily Orange.