New York Yankees: Cutouts gone, fans return to the stands today

New York Yankees
Feb 23, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA;New York Yankees right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27), first baseman Greg Bird (33), center fielder Aaron Hicks (31), shortstop Didi Gregorius (18) and teammates stand on the field as they are introduced before the game against the Detroit Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Win or lose, tomorrow will be a special day for the New York Yankees; fans will be in the stands when the Yankees take the field in tomorrow’s spring training opener at George M Steinbrenner Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. 3,000 lucky Yankees fans will be allowed in the Stadium confines that the elder Steinbrenner built near Tampa Bay in Florida. It will be the first time that fans will be able to watch a Yankees game in person since March 12 of last year. The Yankee players are super excited to see fans again.

Last year the dread coronavirus shut down spring training, and from then on, during the entire 2020 Yankees season, fans, due to health concerns, were not allowed to watch games in person, relegated to seeing their team play on television. Major League Baseball is directing its teams to sell its tickets in “pods,” or small groups. These groups tend to be limited to two, three, or four per pod, and each pod is separated by six feet of space. In the case of the New York Yankees, Steinbrenner Field has a capacity of 11, 000 but only 3,000 fans will be allowed in the stands. That’s about 28% capacity, and all fans will be relegated to wearing face masks.

To start spring training exhibition games, the Yankees will have Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, and Jordan Montgomery; other options include Deivi Garcia, Domingo German, Michael King, Nick Nelson, and non-roster invitees Jhoulys Chacin and Asher Wojciechowski. Clarke Schmidt will start the season on the IL with a right elbow injury. Tomorrow’s scheduled starting pitcher will be Michael King. Yankee fans will want to see newly acquired Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon pitch, but that probably won’t happen in tomorrow’s game.

The game tomorrow will be at 1:05 pm at the training complex. It will be against the Toronto Blue Jays, and it will be broadcast on the YES Network for all those fans that will not be allowed in the Stadium. During this spring training, the Yankees will avoid travel by playing only teams with their stadiums on the West coast of Florida.  The Yankees will play 28 games, 14 of which will be at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. The other 14 will be on the road. It’s a shorter spring training with modified rules. Specifically, the Yanks will play only the Blue Jays, Orioles, Phillies, Pirates, and Tigers. East coast teams like the Boston Red Sox will play only east coast teams.

Yesterday On a beautiful Florida Saturday morning at the Yankees’ player-development complex, Aroldis Chapman threw live batting practice to teammates on Billy Martin Field (Field 1) as Zack Britton did the same on Derek Jeter Field (Field 2). Then Chad Green followed Chapman on Field 1 in preparation for today’s spring training season opener.

Fans will hope to watch a fast start for New York Yankee’s slugger Aaron Judge who hit 9 home runs in the first 18 games last year. They will surely zone in on catcher Gary Sanchez who had a horrible season last year but hit a 95 mph fastball yesterday almost to the east coast. Gleyber Torres, who had a sub-par season last year, will also be watched closely. Giancarlo Stanton, who hit 6 home runs in just 7 games in the postseason last year, will also be on the fans’ radar. Whatever the case, tomorrow marks the start of the 2021 baseball season.