The first fans of 2020: pro-Braves, maskless on Instagram, ‘good for baseball’

  • Fans look on during the second inning in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series between the Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves at Globe Life Field on Monday night in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • Fans wait for the start of Game 1 of a baseball National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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  • ARLINGTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 12: Los Angeles Dodgers fans cheer during the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves in Game One of the National League Championship Series at Globe Life Field on October 12, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

  • Fans wait for the start of Game 1 of a baseball National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • ARLINGTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 12: Los Angeles Dodgers fans cheer during the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves in Game One of the National League Championship Series at Globe Life Field on October 12, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

  • Fans watch during batting practice before Game 1 of a baseball National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Fans watch during batting practice before Game 1 of a baseball National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Fans wait for the start of Game 1 of a baseball National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Fans in center field catch home run balls while the Atlanta Braves take batting practice before playing the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of a baseball National League Championship Series, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

  • Fans arrive before Game 1 of a baseball National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • An Atlanta Braves fan, front right, in center field catches a ball in front of a Los Angeles Dodgers fan while Braves’ Ronald Acuna takes batting practice before Game 1 of a baseball National League Championship Series, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

  • Fans arrive before Game 1 of a baseball National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Fans arrive before Game 1 of a baseball National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Kids line up on the rail during Atlanta Braves batting practice before the start of Game One of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Globe Life Field on October 12, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

  • ARLINGTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 12: Los Angeles Dodgers fans celebrate catching a foul ball off Enrique Hernandez #14 of the Los Angeles Dodgers during the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves in Game One of the National League Championship Series at Globe Life Field on October 12, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

  • Fans sit in the stands before the start of Game One of the National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves at Globe Life Field on October 12, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

  • A fan catches a foul ball during the second inning in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series between the Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves on Monday night at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

  • ARLINGTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 12: Los Angeles Dodgers fans cheer during the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves in Game One of the National League Championship Series at Globe Life Field on October 12, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Globe Life Field was opened up to 26 percent of capacity for Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Monday, making it the first major league venue to host fans in 2020. Even at limited availability, tickets did not sell out by game time.

Twenty-five “pods” were still available for sale on MLB.com when Walker Buehler threw the game’s first pitch to Ronald Acuña at 7:08 p.m. local time. Seating options ranged from directly behind home plate to the farthest nook above the right-field corner. Additional tickets were available via StubHub.com, the league’s official “fan to fan ticket marketplace.”

By the time attendance was announced in the sixth inning, that changed. The official count was 10,700 – the maximum allowable.

“It was really weird going out on the field to get ready before the game and seeing people in general,” said Kiké Hernandez, who provided the Dodgers’ only run Monday with a solo home run. “I think it was kind of shocking for everybody to see, at least for the first few minutes. It definitely added a little more to this game. I miss what the roar of the crowd sounded like.”

Tickets went on sale Oct. 6 for the best-of-seven series in Arlington, Texas. Major League Baseball announced that it had received “the appropriate approvals to host fans in the ballpark … in conjunction with state and local regulations.”

The American League Championship Series, which is being played in San Diego, remains closed to fans in accordance with California’s COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings. Only the family members of Rays and Astros players who are quarantining in the team “bubble” are allowed to watch the games from inside Petco Park.

Fans attending the games in Texas must abide by specific restrictions. Every pod – which consists of four seats sold as a cluster – is at least six feet apart from the next-closest pod. No seats were sold within 20 feet of the playing field, bullpens or dugouts. Seats that were not put up for sale were zip-tied shut to ensure their vacancy.

Masks were mandatory, except while eating or drinking. However, a quick scan of Instagram revealed several social selfie-sharers proudly flaunting this mandate.

Social distancing was optional during pregame batting practice as fans gathered beyond the outfield fence to snag home runs. Despite the inherent risks, the participants in Monday’s game welcomed their first live crowd since spring training.

“It’s good,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told Fox Sports during an in-game interview. “We’re supposed to be at home, but I think the fan base is partial to the Braves. There’s still live bodies. This is good for baseball.”

Braves manager Brian Snitker noticed the Braves’ cheering section too.

“That was kind of cool,” he said. “It was neat to see people back in the ballpark. It’s a great step in the right direction. I applaud Major League Baseball, all of us, for what we’ve been through. They’ve got to be happy with the product they saw tonight.”

They weren’t merely the first paid fans to witness a major league game in person since spring training. They were the first to sit in the new Globe Life Field, which was originally scheduled to open in March.

“It’s a beautiful ballpark,” Hernandez said. “I’m glad they could get people in.”

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