By Grace Knoop
Boston University News Service
It’s time to dust off your baseball caps and get ready to fill up on cracker jacks; Major League Baseball finally returned after a 99-day lockout, and Boston baseball fans are readier than ever to cheer for their home teams.
Fans like Danny Alowitz, a Boston University junior who plays for the BU baseball team, have been dreaming about Opening Day since last season’s World Series.
“I’m super excited,” said Alowitz on Friday, Opening Day, which saw the Red Sox take on the Yankees in the Bronx. “I woke up very excited this morning.”
Alowitz’s teammate, Edward James Wong, a BU junior, matched his excitement and is ready to be back in baseball stadiums again.
“I’m so excited to have MLB back here at the lockout, MLB is back and rolling,” said Wong.
Following the 99-day lockout and the restrictions that came with COVID-19, fans are excited to be back in packed stadiums. Nicholas Lapunzina, a Boston University junior, has been awaiting the feeling of being in a packed stadium again.
“It’s fun to go back to packed stadiums again, I have never gotten to go to a full game that has been full,” said Lapunzina.
Wong echoed the statement, looking forward to feeling the energy that stadiums like Fenway Park bring.
“There is so much happiness and passion in Fenway,” said Wong.
Friday’s home opener, which ended with an extra-innings 6-5 win for the Yankees, came weeks after New York Mayor Eric Adams lifted restrictions against professional athletes, allowing unvaccinated players to play in New York again.
But the easing of restrictions has not been all that widespread. Just north of the border in Canada, officials revoked a former exception for professional and amateur athletes earlier this year. As a result, unvaccinated players will not be allowed to participate in any games against the Toronto Blue Jays, potentially leaving both the Red Sox and Yankees in a pickle and having to leave some players off the roster when facing the Jays at home.
Along with being sidelined, players will not be paid or receive service time under a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, according to WCVB’s Duke Castiglione.
Teams — including the Boston Red Sox — that did not meet the league’s 85% vaccination threshold last season will run into issues, as they were one of the least-vaccinated teams in the league.
Red Sox pitchers Chris Sale and Josh Taylor appear to still be unvaccinated, although an update to their status has not been shared since the winter. Other Red Sox players, including shortstop Xander Bogaerts and second baseman Christian Arroyo, were vaccinated during the offseason and will be able to play in Toronto.
If unable to play against the Blue Jays, unvaccinated players like Sale and Taylor will not only be missing out on some paydays but they will also be letting down some die-hard baseball fans. Fans like Alowitz are worried about what having missing players does to the sport as a whole.
“It’s especially a big issue for baseball where it’s a declining sport already,” Alowitz said. “You really want to see all the best players play. So, for there to be a scenario where some players won’t be able to play, it definitely is a concern for the sport.”
In the meantime, MLB play returns to Fenway Park on Friday, April 15, when the Red Sox face the Minnesota Twins for the first of a four-game series.