KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Major League Baseball athletes were just as excited to play in front of fans on Opening Day as the fans were to be there.
The feeling was shared at Kauffman Stadium too.
“We’re able to have fans which is great. I know the players really appreciate it, the organization and they really play for the fans,” Dr. Vince Key, Head Physician for the Royals, said during a Facebook Live with the University of Kansas Health System.
Gone were the community condiment stands and high-fives. Instead, added plexiglass dividers, forced social distancing, and hand sanitizers greeted the 10,000 fans to Opening Day at the K. But, the Royals say there are a lot of other things in place that fans don’t see to keep both them and the players safe.
“We do have monitors on ourselves when we walk into the K in terms of when we are social distancing from ourselves. There’s a timer that’s on that,” Key said.
The Royals didn’t have minor league players at spring training, and they used both club houses, according to Dr. Key. He says the team decided to carry some of those precautions over to the regular season.
“We’re still doing some things inside, but when we’re doing them inside obviously, we’re social distancing, we’re masking up. But we’re trying to do as much as we can in terms of their workouts outside,” Key said.
The same goes for when the Royals hit the road. Key said the players and staff traveling with the team are basically in a bubble to prevent as much exposure to COVID-19 and variants as possible.
With all of the precautions in place, Key said he expected the Royals to play a full season.
“There may be some hiccups here and there but I think that we have good protocols in place. The medical advisory committee for Major League Baseball that I’m a part of, I think we’ve done a really good job of communicating with Commissioner Manfred, with the owners, with the player representatives to put in a good infrastructure to be able to get through a season. And I think again, knowledge is key,” Key said.
Some of that knowledge will come during talks with players about getting vaccinated.
Players, including some members of the Royals have already been vaccinated. Key said there will be a bigger push from the team after April 9, when all Missourians become eligible to get a vaccine.
At this point, players are not required to get the shot, but Key said MLB wants everyone to eventually be vaccinated.
“I think the main thing is talking to the players and explaining to them the pros and the cons of getting vaccinated and then letting them make the decision for themselves,” Key said.