Major League Baseball took a step toward normalcy this week, allowing fans back through stadium doors for the National League Championship Series in Texas – with some COVID-19 restrictions in place.
For the first time since March, more than 10,000 fans are now able to watch baseball games in person after coronavirus health and safety guidelines barred crowds at stadiums due to the ongoing pandemic.
According to CNN, the MLB announced they would be selling 11,500 tickets for games at Globe Life Field in Arlington, where the NLCS is currently being played and the World Series will later take place.
Fans made their initial return Monday for Game 1 of the NLCS between the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Braves won 2-1 following a home run from Austin Riley after being tied 1-1 in the top of the ninth inning.
According to USA Today, tickets for all seven World Series games have already sold out while Games 2, 3, and 7 of the NLCS still have open seats.
The stadium is limiting its capacity to 25 percent and all tickets are being sold in groups of four with neighboring seats blocked off. In order to attend, fans must be wearing face masks and are encouraged to remain at least 6-feet from other parties.
Monday night's game came just hours after Texas passed 17,000 COVID-19 deaths that afternoon.
One major difference in fans returning to the stadium was the addition of crowd noise, which has instead been replaced by fake cheering sounds for viewers at home for the past several months.
"We haven't heard anything other than fake crowd noise," Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman told CNN after Monday's game. "This was much needed. It was great."
"Eleven thousand people, it really felt like 50,000 people to us because we haven't had any all year," he continued. "It was just great to hear cheering for both sides of the teams. It's just great to have baseball fans in the stands again."
Freeman said the fans seemed "very happy" to be back at the stadium and he hopes they will return for future games.
Braves manager Brian Snitker said it was "cool" to see all the Braves fans in the stands.
"I'm happy for the people here that were allowed to come in and experience this whole thing," he added. "I think it's a great step in the right direction."
The American League Championship Series, which also kicked off this week and is being played in San Diego, California, at Petco Park is not allowing in-person attendance.
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