Taking too long? Close loading screen.
Connect with us

Sports

Passan: Inside MLB’s plan to have fans in the stands starting with NLCS opener

Published

on

ARLINGTON, Texas — Every day last week, about 20 Texas Rangers employees fanned out to different parts of their glistening new ballpark, Globe Life Field, armed with what they hope will be vital in preempting the potential spread of the coronavirus at Major League Baseball’s first game with fans in 2020: zip ties.

For months, as it became clear that Globe Life would host neutral-site postseason games in this oddest of seasons, the Rangers had been planning for this moment, which will take place Monday at 8 p.m. ET when the Los Angeles Dodgers play the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series and as many as 11,500 fans patronize the stadium. The Rangers teamed with MLB on a protocol that would rely on three tenets: mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing. As a precaution against those who might be tempted to run afoul of an assigned-seat rule, Rangers employees folded up more than 30,000 seat bottoms and used 5-foot-long zip ties to adhere them to their seat backs.

Fans over the age of 2 — except for those with a medical condition or disability that precludes their use — will be required to wear masks over their noses and mouths. Around 200 employees will roam the stadium to enforce compliance, said Rob Matwick, the Rangers’ executive vice president of ballpark operations. While fans can remove the masks to eat or drink, those seen not wearing them will be given two warnings before being ejected from the game if caught maskless a third time.

Though the decision to allow fans into games is no longer unique — the NFL, college football, MLS and NASCAR are among those who have opened their gates — it’s as much about 2021 as it is 2020. Behind the scenes, sources said, MLB owners have balked at the idea of playing to empty stadiums next season, and holding the NLCS and World Series with fans will provide the league with proof of concept to see whether it can work as a short-term fix.

“When we decided on neutral sites, Texas does have a regulation that permits fans in stadiums,” said Bryan Seeley, a senior vice president with MLB who has helped write the league’s coronavirus protocols. “We started to give some thought about whether it was a good opportunity to do it as a prelude to next year. We didn’t want to do it in [the division series]. We wanted to make sure there was a secure zone and not try to introduce too much. The NLCS was a good opportunity. We talked to health experts, saw what other leagues are doing and decided to move forward with it.”

Following those conversations, MLB decided against requiring temperature checks for those entering the stadium, Seeley said, believing that the benefit to them would be mitigated by the close contact necessary between employees scanning foreheads and fans. The Rangers, Matwick said, have not been testing game-day employees for coronavirus.

Tarrant County, where Arlington is located, currently has slightly more than 3,000 active coronavirus cases, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. In the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, which includes Arlington, 962 COVID-19-positive patients are hospitalized. Of the more than 50,000 cases Tarrant County has seen, 763 people have died.

The American League Championship Series started Sunday with only cardboard cutouts and a small number of family members in the stands at Petco Park in San Diego. The vibe at the NLCS will be entirely different — aside from the piped-in noise and broadcast enhancements, which MLB said would remain. All of the games for the NLCS and World Series are sold out, according to MLB, with around 10,500 tickets distributed in pods of four that are distanced 6 feet apart. The other 1,000 or so fans will sit in suites, which will hold between 25% and 33% capacity, according to the league.

“I’m overwhelmed with joy to have fans back in the stands,” Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr. said. “The season never felt the same without them, and it goes without saying we miss them dearly.”

Hundreds of signs have been hung throughout the stadium, including on the door of every suite, to remind fans that mask-wearing is compulsory, even inside of suites. The retractable roof at Globe Life is expected to be open for every game of the series, barring a change in weather, as forecasts project near-perfect conditions for each of the potential seven games.

Concession stands with contact-free payments, pre-packaged food and no shared condiment dispensers will be open throughout the stadium, with floor markings to encourage proper distancing. Throughout the concourses, the Rangers set up sinks that are usually used for food preparation to serve as hand-washing stations.

“I’m realistic about this,” said Matwick, the Rangers’ conduit to MLB. “I think we’ll get better as we go. It’s going to be an education process. In order to do these things, we need to follow the rules.”

Although the only games played at the park to date were last week’s fan-free division series between the Dodgers and Padres, the Rangers do have some experience with crowds at Globe Life. Between May and July, Matwick said, the stadium held 61 high school graduations. The organization provided tickets with assigned seats, opened different entrances for the graduates and families, and created specific routes for the students to walk from the stands to the field to receive their diplomas. More than 100,000 people attended the graduations, Matwick said, and another 20,000 have come to Globe Life to tour the $1.2 billion facility.

Gates to the stadium will open two hours ahead of the first pitch thrown by Los Angeles’ Walker Buehler — the same time as the parking lots that abut the ballpark. MLB considered a timed entry with each ticket, but it hopes that the size of the crowd and each pod being given a specific entrance point will prevent long lines from forming. When fans do arrive, they’ll be required to do so with no bags other than diaper bags for babies. All they can bring in is a sealed bottle of water no greater than one liter.

Some small details of the plan could change — if people are seen nursing tubs of popcorn so they can keep their masks down, for example, popcorn could be taken off the menu — but what happens at the NLCS and World Series might well be a blueprint for what baseball looks like next spring. A number of teams asked MLB during the season to allow fans into stadiums and even had local government approval, but commissioner Rob Manfred denied those wishes.

Not anymore. Starting Monday, fans are back in stadiums, and barring an outbreak, they’re not likely to go away, either.

“We’ve missed our fans this whole year,” Dodgers catcher Will Smith said. “I mean, I expect Dodger fans to be out here cheering hard and really giving us that home-field advantage.”

Source

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sports

Man United, Arsenal, Juventus, Real, Bayern get Adidas kit makeover via Pharrell

Published

on

Adidas have produced a very special array of custom hand-painted jerseys for a selection of the world’s top football clubs.

In collaboration with singer, songwriter, record producer, fashion designer, and entrepreneur Pharrell Williams and his Humanrace creative label, each shirt is inspired by the club in question and significant moments from their respective histories.

Adidas x Pharrell Williams “Humanrace” line of kits have been designed for Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Manchester United, and Real Madrid — as well as London-based grassroots club Romance FC.

The aforementioned moments and memories have been reverse engineered and reworked in a raw and expressive manner to reflect contemporary football culture, as interpreted by Pharrell and the Humanrace design team.

“History is what shapes the future, and sometimes in order to look forwards, first we need to look back,” said Pharrell of the collection.

“The most important part of the process with this collection was to learn of each club’s legacies and how each defining moment of their histories were captured and preserved from a design perspective.

“Each of the new jerseys are symbols of the five club’s legacies and a true celebration of the universality of sport.”

Arsenal

It all started with Pharrell trawling back through the Adidas archives and plucking the cult classic “bruised banana” Arsenal away shirt of the early 1990s as his starting point.

The iconic zigzag design was then reworked with a loose “paint bleed” effect (using spray paint and stencils) to give the jersey a washed-out and watery look, with the badges and club crest hand-stencilled on the chest.

Manchester United

Another classic Premier League away kit was dredged up for United’s offering, with Pharrell selecting the popular white and blue “snowflake” shirt from 1990-92 to remix.

Still a favourite among United fans to this day, the design was originally born of the “Madchester” house music scene that swept the city in the late 1980s and has now been updated using a mottled tie-dye effect.

Bayern Munich

Bayern saw their 1991-93 home shirt selected from their back catalogue to undergo the Humanrace treatment, with the bold and blocky design reimagined using daubs of thick acrylic paint.

Juventus

Rather than their famous black and white stripes, Juventus saw their gaudy pink away shirt from 2015-16 given an blotchy artistic overhaul — quite possibly as it marks a treble-winning season and also the first year of the Italian club’s kit partnership with Adidas.

Real Madrid

Rounding off the main collection, Pharrell decided to use a Madrid shirt which was itself originally created by his friend and past collaborator, Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto.

An instant hit at the time, Los Blancos‘ 2014-15 away kit featured a mystical graphic drawn by Yamamoto, with two dragons entwined around each other on a field of black — a symbol of glory, honour and power.

Pharrell and Humanrace have adapted the illustration using a water technique to smudge the intricate drawing to the point of being almost unrecognisable.

Romance FC

London grassroots team Romance FC also had a bespoke shirt created for them to play in this season, which will make just about every single opponent massively jealous as they are in such illustrious company.

Indeed, the Adidas x Pharrell Williams “Humanrace” jerseys will function as exclusive pre-match apparel for Arsenal and Manchester United before their Premier League games on Oct. 24.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid and Juventus will wear their designs in-match on Oct. 25 and Bayern Munich will sport theirs in their next domestic cup game.

Source

Continue Reading

Sports

World Series Daily: Will Julio Urias, Dodgers push Rays to brink in Game 4?

Published

on

After all the oddities of the MLB regular season and postseason, the 2020 World Series pits baseball’s top two teams against each other, which doesn’t happen every year. And while we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the Dodgers playing for the championship, this is the first Fall Classic for the Rays since 2008 and only the second in franchise history.

Here’s what you need to know for Game 4 on Saturday night, including a look at the pitching matchup, predictions, odds, other key numbers and more.

Key links: Viewers guide | Schedule | Playoff Baseball Classic

What’s on tap

World Series Game 4: Tampa Bay Rays (Ryan Yarbrough) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (Julio Urias), 8:08 p.m. ET in Arlington, Texas

Heading into the series, I thought Game 4 looked like the game that might be the most important, the game most likely to be the tipping point on who ultimately wins. Before Game 1, it looked like a potential bullpen game for both teams, but since the Dodgers did not have to use Julio Urias in their bullpen effort in Game 2, he’s now ready and rested for a conventional start. The Rays, meanwhile, will hope Yarbrough can keep the first three batters (Mookie BettsCorey SeagerJustin Turner) under control well enough to help him get through the first three or four innings.

The pitching advantage on paper in the first half of the game goes to the Dodgers. Urias has been outstanding in the postseason, allowing two runs (one earned) over 16 innings, culminating with his nine up, nine down effort to close out Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. Long a heralded prospect, Urias debuted for the Dodgers in 2016 at 19 years old, battled some shoulder injuries and has been nursed along slowly the past couple of seasons. He is still just 24 but has already made 16 postseason appearances, so the moment shouldn’t be too big for him. He works off a 94 mph fastball, with an excellent curveball and a changeup he throws to right-handers. Both the fastball and curveball come with a high spin rate, helping Urias induce a lot of soft contact even though his swing-and-miss rate is below average (although it’s been higher in the postseason).

Yarbrough is a soft-tossing lefty who needs his cutter working to get in on the hands of righties. It was a great pitch for him in 2019 (.200/.230/.338 against RHB), but hasn’t been as effective in 2020 (.317/.376/.510). Given the state of the series, Rays skipper Kevin Cash will have to play all his cards in this game, which could mean a quick hook for Yarbrough if he gets into trouble. Cash can’t let the game get out of hand early without getting his top relievers into the game. That shouldn’t be an issue since Friday’s blowout meant Nick Anderson, Pete Fairbanks and Diego Castillo didn’t pitch.

Two wild cards to watch for: First, the Dodgers are playing a little small ball, with Betts stealing bases and the Austin Barnes sacrifice squeeze bunt in Game 3; and we still don’t know who the Dodgers closer will be in a close game. — David Schoenfield


Running World Series odds

Dodgers 81.7%; Rays 18.3%


Game 4 predictions

Schoenfield: The Tampa Bay offense is still struggling, barely hitting over .200 in the postseason. The Dodgers, meanwhile, continue to do a lot of their damage with two strikes — all five of their runs off Charlie Morton in Game 3 came with two strikes (and two outs). I like the way Urias has been pitching and the Rays’ lineup against lefties has featured Hunter Renfroe and his .156 average hitting cleanup. Maybe he runs into something. I’ll bet against it. We are due for a close game, however. Dodgers 3, Rays 2.

Alden Gonzalez: The Dodgers’ offense looks dialed in — almost as much as their Game 4 starter, Julio Urias, who has allowed one earned run over 16 innings this postseason. The Rays will counter with what amounts to a bullpen game, giving the Dodgers a premium opportunity to take control of this series. They know it, too. Dodgers 9, Rays 3.

Dan Mullen: I’m starting to have serious doubts that we’ll have baseball to watch after this weekend now that the Dodgers have a 2-1 series lead as the pitching just does not set up well for the Rays the next two nights. Having Urias head to the mound in Game 4 isn’t quite like having Clayton Kershaw or Walker Buehler, but it is a clear advantage over the bullpen game the Rays are going to deploy. There’s a very good chance that means we see Kershaw on the mound with a chance to clinch in Game 5. Dodgers 6, Rays 3.


Stat of the day

With his ninth-inning home run in Game 3, Randy Arozarena of the Rays set a new MLB record for total bases in the postseason (52) with his 23rd hit of the postseason — a single-season record for postseason hits for a rookie, but now he’s also just three hits shy of Pablo Sandoval’s all-time mark for any player in any single postseason at 26, set with the Giants in their 2014 title season.


Social media post of the day


Best moment of the MLB playoffs to date

Cody Bellinger managed to one-up … Cody Bellinger. The Dodgers outfielder had held this crown since he robbed Fernando Tatis Jr. of a home run in a thrilling Dodgers-San Diego Padres NL Division Series Game 2; but his NLCS-deciding Game 7 home run to put Los Angeles in the 2020 World Series was just enough to take over the top spot.


The running MLB playoffs MVP

Randy Arozarena has gone from an unknown outfielder to this October’s breakout star. Going into the playoffs, you might have been asking, “Who is this guy?” But the Rays’ trade for him has been a huge factor in their postseason run. His MLB-high eight long balls have made a big impression — tying him with Barry Bonds, Nelson Cruz and Carlos Beltran for the record for most home runs in a postseason. Arozarena also leads all hitters in the postseason with a new MLB record for total bases with 52, and is leading in hits while second overall in runs scored. Also, he has been flashing some leather in the outfield and some sweet celebration dance moves on the field.

Source

Continue Reading

Sports

The Rays are down only 2-1 in this World Series. Here’s why it feels a whole lot worse

Published

on

ARLINGTON, Texas — For the moment, the Tampa Bay Rays have answered a question that lingered even after Wednesday’s six-run output in their World Series Game 2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. It went something like this: Was the Rays’ anemic postseason offense waking up, or did they just get a one-day reprieve because the Dodgers pitched a bullpen game that night?

Games 1 and 3 gave us the answers we need, as the Rays put up little fight in the batter’s box in either contest and now find themselves down 2-1 in the series with their own version of a bullpen game looming.

“We need to find a way to win, that’s for sure,” manager Kevin Cash simply stated after the latest loss.

It doesn’t help that the Dodgers have dynamic lefties Julio Urias and Clayton Kershaw lined up for the next two nights. The Rays are just 11-11 this season when a lefty starts against them. In other words, the path to a championship got a whole lot harder for the American League representative. Catcher Mike Zunino is taking the proverbial glass-half-full approach.

“Guys have been hitting the ball hard lately,” he said. “The luck hasn’t been there but that’s all part of it. We have to stay consistent and put our work in. Eventually we’ll get some bounces.”

But are they running out of time?

If the Dodgers were planning several more bullpen games, it wouldn’t be fair to eliminate Game 2 from the Rays’ offensive statistics. But they’re not, so it’s appropriate to look at it this way. Minus that game, the Rays are 10-for-62 (.161) with 23 strikeouts in their two World Series losses. For the entire postseason, minus Game 2 of this series, they’re hitting just .203.

Again, unless the Dodgers are throwing more of their “B” relievers, these are the numbers that matter. And what about all that talk of a Brandon Lowe breakout after his two-home run performance on Wednesday? His three-strikeout night in Game 3 is a nice microcosm of the Rays right now: Their production has been spotty at best this postseason.

“We see it quite a bit when our pitching is on and we go against good offenses,” Cash stated. “That’s what we saw on the flip side [in Game 3]. Just dominant, dominant stuff.”

The scary part for the Rays is Game 3 winner Walker Buehler had a “lofty” ERA of 1.89 coming into the night when compared to Game 4 starter Urias, whose 0.56 mark leads all starting pitchers this postseason. As do his four wins.

The Rays’ best shot is to scratch a run or two across the board as early as possible. They’re a major-league-best 31-7 when scoring first this season.

“We seem to be a much better club when we get early leads,” Cash said. “Whatever we can do to get some runs early.”

Easier said than done for the Rays right now with their 2-1 series hole feeling a lot deeper than just a one-game deficit.

Source

Continue Reading

Trending