Wednesday begins a new type of spring training season, as pitchers and catchers are able to begin reporting.
At the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, both the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report Wednesday, with workouts beginning Thursday. Full team workouts will start next week.
There are many changes this season because of COVID-19. Those workouts will be closed to the public this season, which traditionally served as an opportunity for fans to get up close to the players. Fans will be allowed to attend games.
At the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, single game tickets go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m. Tickets will be sold in pods, meaning people will sit in clusters ranging from one to six seats together.
"Each pod is at minimum 6 feet away from any other pod in the building, so we are keeping our fans safe," Ballpark general manager Matt Slatus said. "All of our staff will be in KN95 masks throughout the games and fans are required to wear their masks at all times throughout the ballpark, unless they are in their seats eating and drinking."
The stands will be filled at just under 19% capacity, Slatus said, with about 1,500 tickets for sale per game. The stadium normally seats about 8,000 fans.
"While spring training may look and feel a little different this year, at the end of the day, you're still watching clubs that have won World Series championships in the last five years," Slatus said. "We're marching toward opening day to get everybody ready and give the Astros and Nationals the best opportunity to win a title again in 2021."
The schedule will look different this year, too.
"It goes right back to health and safety being on the forefront of everything we are doing, so Major League Baseball has essentially built two pods for the teams themselves," Slatus said. "We have a west coast pod with teams in Tampa and Sarasota, and we've got an east coast pod."
In total, the Astros and Nationals will host 24 games at the Ballpark against the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins, who hold spring training in Jupiter, and the New York Mets, who are based in Port St. Lucie.
Slatus said this season feels like a new beginning for America's favorite pastime.
"The grass is green, the hot dogs are fresh and tickets are going to be on sale this Saturday, and think about where you were last March," he said.
There are many safety enhancements at the stadium as well, including touchless sinks and toliets, no cash accepted and more.
"We want this to be a seamless, touchless experience," Slatus said. "We've added over 50 sanitizating stations to the ballpark. We've got a clean team that will go through and santize hard surfaces throughout the game."
COVID-19 testing will continue at the ballpark during spring training. However, the testing location has moved to the southern part of the property where it began initially.
For start dates for all Major League Baseball teams, click here.
To purchase tickets and see a full schedule at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, click here.
For more on the Cardinals and Marlins spring training tickets and schedule at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, click here.
Anyone interested in seeing the Mets in Port St. Lucie, click here.