CINCINNATI — For the first time since 2019, a limited number of fans were allowed back inside Great American Ball Park to watch a Cincinnati Reds game Thursday.
Capacity was limited to 30%, or roughly 12,000 people, and fans were spaced apart in seating pods, so Thursday’s home game looked different than Opening Days past.
Fans said it undoubtedly felt strange, with universal masking and social distancing rules, but at the heart of it all was a baseball tradition and celebration they didn’t get last year.
“It’s nice," said fan Bill Settle. "But it would be nice if the stadium could be full, too, and everyone could be here.”
With the organ playing "Charge," fresh-cut grass and plenty of concessions, the sights, sounds and smells of Opening Day still delighted fans.
Some chose a warm hot chocolate over a frosty beverage as temperatures plunged and flurries arrived ahead of the first pitch.
Despite the cold, Reds fan Jeff Kessen said he was glad to be back in Great American Ball Park.
“It's my summer home. I don't plan on wearing these winter clothes normally,” he said.
This time last year, fans like Kessen weren’t allowed inside the park, so they camped just outside.
"This feels much more like an Opening Day than last year did, when I was sitting outside the gates. Sitting literally right over there looking at the big screen,” he said. “This is better. Next year will be even better."
Just ask 9-year-old Michael Tomaro if he had fun. He took in part of the game from the Kids Zone.
“It was super fun because we got to get off school early,” he said.
His mother, season-ticket holder Merisa Tomaro, said she appreciates the lengths the Reds went to keep fans safe.
“The kids were still able to have fun and we loved it,” she said. “It was great.”
WCPO caught up with Settle and his son during the fourth inning.
“It's been a little colder than usual. But yeah, it's kind of weird for it being Opening Day and there's so few people here," he said.
If you come to a game this year, here's what you should know:
- Masks are required at all times inside GABP, unless you are eating or drinking in your seat.
- All tickets are issued digitally on the MLB Ballpark app.
- Hand sanitizer stations can be found around the concourse.
- Take care around congested areas, like the line for the restroom between innings.
You can find more information about ball park protocol here.
Reds employees were walking around making sure folks kept masks on Thursday. Despite the new Game Day experience, folks seemed happy to be out once again.