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Data: Axios research; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

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.

Go deeper

The rays are returning to Tropicana Field's outfield tank

The Rays Touch Tank at Tropicana Field in 2019. Photo: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Here's yet another sign that Tampa Bay is rounding the bases to a new beginning.

What's happening: The Ray Tank returns to Tropicana Field's outfield Wednesday, with the touch experience coming back on June 22.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Virginia attorney general fires Jan. 6 investigator from university post

McIntire Amphitheater at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo: Robert Knopes/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The lead investigator for the Jan. 6 House select committee investigating the Capitol riot has been fired from his position as the University of Virginia's counsel by the state's new Republican attorney general, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: Democrats say the removal of Tim Heaphy from his post after some three years while he's on leave from the university to investigate the insurrection is likely "retribution" for the House probe — an accusation strongly denied by the office of state Attorney General Jason Miyares (R).

5 hours ago - World

Taiwan's military scrambles jets after detecting 39 Chinese warplanes

J-20 stealth fighter jets in Zhuhai in the Guangdong Province of China last year. Photo: Chen Jimin/China News Service via Getty Images

Taiwan's defense force said 39 Chinese warplanes flew into its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on Sunday.

Why it matters: The largest Chinese air force incursion into the zone since October came a day after the U.S. and Japanese navies conducted a joint exercise in the Philippine Sea.