MILWAUKEE — As Luis Arraez dug into the American Family Field batter’s box, the limited fans in attendance started getting louder and louder, hitting their crescendo as Brewers starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff reached back and delivered a strike to kick off the Twins’ 2021 season.
After a year of playing in front of empty seats when every chirp was audible in the opposing dugout and the energy could sometimes be hard to come by, Major League Baseball stadiums across the country finally welcomed fans back to regular-season games — albeit at a limited capacity — on Thursday. It was the first game open to Twins fans since Game 3 of the ALDS on Oct. 7, 2019.
A total of 11,740 spectators took in the Twins’ 6-5 loss to the Brewers on Thursday afternoon in Milwaukee, including some Twins fans who, eager to see their team in person again, made the trip down for Opening Day.
Vince Vos was one of those fans, driving from Minneapolis to Milwaukee on Wednesday. Vos bought his Opening Day tickets online, and his brother, who lives in Milwaukee, and has a 10-game Brewers season-ticket package, helped secure tickets to the rest of the season-opening series.
“I was looking at it as soon as they released the schedule,” Vos said.
Vos plans to be at the Twins’ home opener on April 8 at Target Field, too, as do Pete and Lori Hall, who made the trip from Austin, Minn. The Halls drove down on Thursday morning, stopping to pick up Lori’s sister and her husband — both Brewers fans — in West Salem, Wis.
“It’s been so long. It’s nice to get back (to) the field and watching the guys play,” Pete Hall said. “It’s just a lot of fun to be back around baseball. It’s been a year, and that’s enough of that. I hope it stays this way.”
Both were adorned in Twins facemasks that Lori made herself, and both hope to see more fans let into stadiums soon — something which would seem likely as more of the population gets a COVID-19 vaccine. When the Twins return home to Target Field, they will be able to host up to 10,000 fans for each game to begin the season in accordance with Minnesota Department of Health and Gov. Tim Walz’s guidelines.
“Masks are fine, but let more people come in because I think when you look out throughout the country, everybody’s still wearing them, which is great, and the more people that get vaccinated, the better it’s going to be,” Lori Hall said.
Cedric Friesen, a Twins fan who lives in La Crosse, Wis., was able to snag tickets to Thursday’s game because he is a Brewers season-ticket holder. He grabbed tickets to Thursday’s game, took the time off work and made the trip down to see his favorite team.
“It was kind of eerie walking in because usually it’s an hour before game time and there’s people all over the place. But this time, it was just kind of weird walking in,” he said. “But it feels good. I mean, it’s good to be able to go out and see things and see events and be around people.”
Though he didn’t get to tailgate before the game — it is off limits as part of the Brewers’ COVID-19 precautions — he was happy to be taking in his first-ever Opening Day. And as happy as spectators were to be back, the Twins might have been just as appreciative — even if the fans mostly weren’t cheering for them.
“It’s a completely different experience for us on the field when there’s people and people who want to be at baseball games and are having fun and enjoying themselves and getting into the game. I’m looking forward to getting back to Minneapolis and playing in front of our fans,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I’ll tell you this — this is a significantly better environment. It’s a lot more fun for us, and I’m just glad to see everyone here and doing it the right way, safely.”