New York Yankees President Randy Levine said Thursday that he hopes fans will be allowed in ballparks by the end of the 2020 season.
In an interview on the “Brian Kilmeade Show,” an “excited” Levine said the team is prepared to play Major League Baseball (MLB).
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Thursday marks opening day for the teams after a nearly four-month-long delay to the start of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bronx Bombers gear up for a regular-season game at the Washington Nationals’ Nationals Parks at 7:08 p.m. ET.
“This was a lot of work. I mean, it’s a great tribute, most important to our players. They showed up. They followed these protocols. They’ve shown unbelievable grace and heart. All the teams and the organizations and [the] commissioner’s office worked hard,” Levine told Kilmeade. “I think we’re a model for how you bring people back to work.”
“This is [a] very serious situation, but we’ve done the best we can and now we’re going to play ball,” he said.
However, like most Americans, MLB’s wallet has been hit hard over the past few months. And, though Thursday night’s games will be played without fans, teams hemorrhaging money are scrambling to find innovative revenue-generating strategies — assuming case numbers remain low.
Levine confirmed selling space on tarps and virtual signage are viable options on the table.
“There’s no replacement for fans. The Yankees, we have the greatest fans of all time…I believe that if, you know, the virus — especially in New York — stays low and dormant, maybe…in a month or so we can start exploring fans. I’m not ruling that out,” he remarked. “You know, as long as they’re social distancing and we take all of the proper precautions.”
New York’s current case numbers are almost unbelievable following the horrific months of March and April. The Empire State’s Department of Health reported Wednesday that hospitalizations had hit a new low since March 18, with only 1.04 percent of the previous day’s COVID-19 tests confirmed positive. There were 705 additional cases reported and nine COVID-related deaths, bringing the totals to 408,886 cases and 25,068 deaths.
At the beginning of the week, New York City made it to Phase 4 of its reopening plan — although certain restrictions on indoor dining remained, and places like movie theaters and malls remain closed.
“Obviously the idea would be to start slow — maybe 25 [or] 30 percent. You know, Yankee Stadium is big enough. It’s an outdoor arena. It’s large enough that you could social distance on all sides. You know, you require everybody to wear masks. You take their temperatures,” Levine said. “There’s a whole bunch of protocols that could be [implemented] because obviously you want to keep people safe. That’s the most important thing. But, we just have to watch the virus.”
While Levine says this will be a “different season” where “anything can happen,” his team has been “very fortunate” — all testing “way under one percent.”
“I think that if you read the protocols, they basically have all been blessed by the leading…public health officials in the country. The littlest details are covered. They spare nothing. And we feel, you know, we’re going to be okay,” he said.
“We’re just going to do the best we can…” Levine added, “but so far so good.”
Throwing their opening pitch in a changed world, Levine hinted that his Yankees have “something special” in store for their fans in relation to the national dialogue about social justice and racial inequality.
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“I do not want to give it away, but there’s been a great dialogue between some great former and present African-American players and the commissioner’s office. You know, CC Sabathia, our great player who works with us is part of that,” he teased.
“There’s been tremendous input by a lot of people including a lot of our players and ex-players. And, I think they’ve come up with something tonight that’s going…to be very moving,” Levine concluded.
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