Yankees' Hal Steinbrenner Expects to See Fans at Yankee Stadium This Season
Fans may be able to watch the Yankees at Yankee Stadium this summer after all.
Not only is New York actively pursuing a scenario in which fans can attend games at the ballpark once MLB’s truncated campaign begins later this month, but Yankees' managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner is confident that day will come.
“I do expect to see fans in our Stadium at some point to some degree,” Steinbrenner told YES Network’s Meredith Marakovits. “That’s going to be a great day.”
With the novel coronavirus pandemic looming – still an omnipresent threat to baseball's return – envisioning fans in the stands seems like a distant proposition. Steinbrenner confirmed, however, that he and his team in the Bronx have been discussing plans with New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo for much of the last month to get the ball rolling.
“We’ve also had a lot of conversations with the Governor’s office and he’s been great,” Steinbrenner told Marakovits. “He’s been a big advocate to getting sports back on the field and then eventually, when things are safe, to get fans back in the Stadium.”
Cuomo, of course, was instrumental in bringing the Yankees and Mets back to New York City following the closure of all Spring Training venues in Florida and Arizona due to an influx of positive COVID-19 tests within baseball. The Bombers’ player pool reported to Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, putting an end to MLB’s four-month hiatus and kicking off a three-week Summer Camp ahead of Opening Day on July 23.
While Steinbrenner and the entire organization surely would prefer to fill Yankee Stadium to the brink this season, the club's owner is cognizant of the situation and understands the limits imposed by COVID-19. Steinbrenner disclosed that he's enlisted a helping hand to begin mapping out the venue and brainstorm the best ways to keep patrons at least six feet apart should the virus permit fan attendance.
“Ticketmaster has been great helping us out, really putting a diagram together which would keep everybody at least six feet apart, and it would be limited,” he explained. “I’m sure it’ll be in the 20-30 percent [capacity] range, hopefully, at first. It’s definitely possible in the Stadium to keep people at a safe distance, wearing masks at those capacities.”
New York's preference was to hold Summer Camp at the team's complex in Tampa where a handful of players had been training since MLB's shutdown in early-March. Steinbrenner admitted that the transition up to the Bronx has been "difficult," but spelled out how all parties involved are striving to make the move as seamless as possible.
“We are going to make sure that everybody safe distances and we’re just going to have to get through these three weeks, and then we will be utilizing Scranton in all likelihood for the other half of the team," he said. "But we’ll get through it. We’ll make sure that everybody is safe, everybody is keeping their distances and following the protocols. We’ll make it happen.”
As he alluded to, New York will eventually utilize PNC Field in Moosic, Pa. – home of the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders – as an alternative training site for a chunk of the club's 60-man roster.
In the meantime, while the best-case scenario in the stands is filling Yankee Stadium to less than one third of its accommodated space, the product in pinstripes on the field is approaching maximum capacity.
Several key contributors that were previously sidelined with injuries – like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks – continue to take steps closer to their return. In fact, earlier this week, general manager Brian Cashman divulged his optimism that all three outfielders – as well as southpaw James Paxton – will be available on Opening Day.
To Steinbrenner, getting a look at his club's stars back on the diamond – as well as the next generation of Yankees invited back to the resumption of Spring Training – is one of the aspects of Summer Camp that he's looking forward to the most.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing the guys that were injured,” Steinbrenner said. “Most of them have been in Tampa obviously, so I have spent a lot of time with them and they have been progressing well and hopefully we get them all back for Opening Day. But it’s going to be great to see 60 guys all in the same place, including, you know, our top prospects and others.”
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