SCOTTSDALE — The last time Matt Gilmer saw a Giants game, Bruce Bochy was giving a stirring speech to thank fans for a beautiful run that had come to an end. Gabe Kapler was hanging by a thread as the Phillies manager. A lot of the population couldn’t define pandemic, and masks were something Buster Posey wore.
He entered another Giants game on Sunday in a different state — Arizona — and for all intents and purposes, a different world. He drove down to Scottsdale from San Francisco — he lives “about 10 minutes away from [Oracle Park]” — because he was comfortable with the precautions the team and park were taking and he had to be there.
“I’ve missed it,” said Gilmer, who wore a Tim Lincecum jersey. “Big Giants fan, and this is what we live for: to come watch the Giants play.”
The cap would be 1,000 fans allowed in as the Giants and Angels kicked off the Cactus League season in a second straight campaign that will be tried to be played alongside the COVID-19 threats.
There was at least one “Hygiene Steward” making their way around the park and disinfecting everything in sight. There were 16 chalked-up boxes drawn on the grass beyond the right-center field fence in which fans would have to stay within their squares.
There were police and security on hand to enforce mask-wearing, which is required at all times when a fan is not eating or drinking. There appeared to be plenty of paying customers who didn’t follow the protocol as strictly as the park and Giants want.
“Face coverings are required at all times,” came a pregame announcement. “Physical distancing is in effect. Please stay more than 6 feet apart.”
Ushers doubled as mask-enforcers, both helping fans find their seats and holding signs pleading with the fans to wear face masks. Concessions were open, though no cash would be accepted as a way to ensure germs are not passed back and forth.
Fans 18 and over had to download and fill out a health app as a way to make sure no one possibly (and knowingly) exposed would be allowed into the park. Every step — everything that works and does not work — will be considered as a possible blueprint to how fans can reenter Oracle Park, after all 2020 home games were played in front of cardboard cutouts.
The spring training opener was set to only be seven innings, and there was some concern about the exit strategy, which will not be a targeted stagger. Seven-hundred fifty to 1,000 fans would be allowed at a park that holds 12,000; the feeling is so many people wander out of spring games early that the few hundred left at the end of the game could leave at safe distances.
As the Giants’ lineup was announced, Posey got the biggest round of applause. From actual, breathing fans, who were eager to see Giants baseball.