Normalcy is returning to America's pastime
22 of 30 MLB stadiums will increase to 100% capacity by the end of the month, and all but five stadiums will fill up by the end of the Fourth of July weekend.
By the numbers: On Opening Day (April 1), only the Astros (50%) and Rangers (100%) filled their stadiums at least halfway.
- Two months later, 11 teams are at full capacity, 10 more allow at least 50% and just one is still below 20% — and the Mariners are set to increase that next week.
- Eager fans are ready to come out to the park, too: A record 63% of fans feel comfortable attending an outdoor sporting event, per a Morning Consult poll.
The big picture: This has all been made possible by our nation's rapid rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine: 42% of the U.S. is fully vaccinated, up from just 17% on Opening Day.
- Teams are doing a great job, too, as 20 clubs have reached the requisite 85% vaccination threshold to trigger relaxed safety protocols, and two more are set to join them next week.
The state of play: All but six teams have played at least 60 games so far, which last year would have meant the end of the ultra-condensed — and fan-less — regular season.
- This year, we're fortunately treated to a full slate of 162 games, but just for fun, let's check in on what the playoffs would look like if the season ended today.
- AL playoff picture: Rays (39-24); White Sox (37-24); A's (37-26); Red Sox (37-25, WC1); Astros (35-26, WC2)
- NL playoff picture: Mets (30-24); Cubs (35-27); Giants (38-23); Dodgers (36-25, WC1); Padres (37-27, WC2)
The bottom line: With nearly five more months of baseball to go and stadiums planning full-capacity crowds nationwide, it's going to be a good summer for America's pastime.
Humans aren't the only ones returning to the ballpark: Tampa's Ray Tank returned to Tropicana Field's outfield Wednesday, writes Axios Tampa Bay's Selene San Felice.