The Dodgers might get to play in front of fans yet — if they can advance through the first two rounds of the postseason.
MLB announced Wednesday that a limited number of tickets will be made available for the National League Championship Series and World Series, both of which will be played at the Texas Rangers’ new home ballpark, Globe Life Field, in Arlington.
The league said 11,500 tickets will be available for each game, with 10,550 fans spread out in the stands and 950 more watching from suites. Tickets will go on sale beginning Oct. 6 at 8 a.m. PDT on MLB’s website.
MLB said it received “the appropriate approvals to host fans in the ballpark and will implement fan health and safety protocols in conjunction with state and local regulations.”
According to a news release, the league will use a “pod” method to fill the seating bowl, selling tickets in groups of four contiguous seats. Individuals may purchase a limit of one pod per NLCS and World Series game, and seats within each pod cannot be broken apart for sale. Each pod will be at least six feet from one another and no seats will be sold within 20 feet of a player, the dugouts or the bullpen. Fans also will be required to wear masks.
Crowds have been allowed at college football and NFL games throughout Texas this month, including at a Dallas Cowboys home game at AT&T Stadium, which is across the parking lot from Globe Life Field.
While the daily number of COVID-19 fatalities in Texas has steadily fallen since July, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, the state has seen only slight decreases this month in new case rates and Wednesday reported its highest single-day total of confirmed cases, 5,335, in more than a month.
Zachary Binney, an epidemiologist at Emory University, said he was “not a fan” of the details of the plan unveiled in MLB’s Wednesday announcement.
“MLB is just gonna do what it’s gonna do, and hope there aren’t any consequences,” Binney said in an email. “Maybe they’re right. We don’t know. But it hardly seems like something worth running an experiment on a whole community to find out.”
If fans can return safely, however, it could add a different dynamic to games in the middle of the playoffs, with fake crowd noise suddenly replaced by real-life cheers again.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw said it would be a “welcome adjustment” to have crowds return and acknowledged that “any time there’s fans in the stands, there might be a little heightened sense that this is a real game. It might raise everybody’s play just a little bit.”
“I’m not exactly sure if it’s a huge advantage or not,” Kershaw added, “but I think everybody would be excited to have some fans in the stands for sure, get back to normal.”
The Dodgers, the top-seeded team in the National League, open their postseason Wednesday with a best-of-three wild card series against the Milwaukee Brewers. If they advance, they would play the National League Division Series next week in Arlington, Texas, one of four neutral-site locations the league plans to use for the second round.
If they can advance beyond that round, the Dodgers could have the opportunity to play in front of fans for the first time in 2020. And if they’re able to snap a 32-year World Series drought, they’ll have a crowd on hand to witness it.
The NLCS is scheduled for Oct. 12-18. The World Series will take place Oct. 20-28.
Staff writer Bill Shaikin contributed to this report.