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Take Me Back to the Ballpark - Returning to the Stadium After Covid-19: Part 2

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

While some regions of the world welcomed back fans in varying amounts in the Fall of 2020, most live sports were played before empty stadiums filled with cardboard fan cutouts and limited media and coaching staffs.

After my second Moderna shot at Gillette Stadium. The best seats at Kent State’s Dix Stadium were reserved for cardboard fans for the 2020 football season.

Starting in April 2021, with vaccination numbers going up and Covid cases going down, the sports leagues in the United States began to open their doors to fans. As someone who travels a lot and attends as many games as possible, the Covid lockdown obviously put that passion on hold for me.

Beyond all the important health reasons, I was giddy to receive my vaccine at Gillette Stadium in the early spring (For those from outside the U.S., Gillette Stadium is the home of the 6 time Super Bowl champions New England Patriots who were helmed for 20 years by Michigan alum Tom Brady (aka the G.O.A.T.!!!). It felt like a passport to travel was being injected by the friendly nurse into my veins. The whole process was run with military level precision. The most complicated part of the process was getting the angle perfect for my post vaccine selfie.

The Wheeling Nailers mascot reminded fans to wear masks.

At the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, there was Elevators at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse

plenty of empty space with limited attendance and were ready for covid precautions.

social distancing.

After being cooped up with my family during lockdown, including two young extremely energetic boys, it felt liberating to hit the open road solo for the first time in 13 months. I suspect my family welcomed some quiet time from me too. During my trip, I covered 3,708 miles, traveled through 9 states and photographed 128 stadiums.

Scoreboards repeatedly reminded fans to wear masks at PNC Park – Home of the Pittsburgh Pirates

the Cleveland Cavaliers Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

Going to games in largely empty stadiums was one of the most surreal experiences on many levels. Most noticeable were the sounds. I could hear the constant chatter of hockey players calling for the puck, the squeaks of basketball players’ sneakers, the calls from umpires at baseball games and four San Diego Padres fans trying desperately to get a Tommy Phan chant going at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

Historic Crew Stadium – Home of the Columbus Crew Cardboard fans enjoyed the best seats to TD Ballpark

of MLS in Dunedin, FL. Because of border Covid issues, the Toronto Blue Jays played their home games at their spring trainging facility in April and May, 2021. They move to Buffalo, NY in June 2021.

Most of all, I was thrilled just to be back at a stadium. I loved every minute of an early season Pirates vs Padres game that lasted 4 hours and 7 minutes, featuring 17 walks, 7 hit batters and 3 wild pitches. Like the 4,813 other fans attending that night, it was thrilling being back at a ballpark despite the horrible baseball on display. Once games began, things felt somewhat “normal”, but the overall vibe of attending a game changed significantly since before March 11, 2020.

Allen County War Memorial Coliseum – Home of the Nationwide Arena, Home of the Columbus Bluejackets

Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL. The second oldest

minor league hockey arena in the United States,

opening in 1952.

TD Garden was only 12.5 pecent full for an April game. Family members were forced to watch a track meet from outside of the UC Stadium at Laidley Field in Charleston, WW

The Columbus Blue Jackets mascot. PNC Park, Home of the Pittsburgh Pirates Catching a foul ball outside the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRider’s scrimmage.


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