Another sign that Colorado is open for business even while the safer-at-home program remains in place: Governor Jared Polis has informed Major League Baseball of his eagerness to have games at Coors Field should the 2020 season get under way, as long as thousands of fans aren't part of the package.
Although a few would be fine by him.
Polis confirmed the policy in an interview this week with Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic, a subscription sports-news service. "We’re certainly ready as soon as the leagues are ready,” he said while recapping a recent conversation with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. The league's protocols for playing games under the current circumstances "look really good, and we’re certainly excited to get them going as soon as they’re ready to go."
Throughout his political career, Polis has made his love of baseball a big part of his brand, as the former U.S. representative made clear in a June 2017 conversation following his participation in the annual congressional baseball game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., where fellow rep Steve Scalise and three others were wounded in a shooting during a practice session. Polis contributed four RBIs, including the winning run, as the Democrats trounced the Republicans.
Polis has regularly referenced Rockies contests during recent press conferences. On April 17, he told reporters: "There's light at the end of the tunnel. Most people are going to get through this — even the people who contract it. ... We'll cheer on the Rockies and the Broncos. We'll go to massive pews in churches and synagogues. But that's not going to happen until there's a cure or a vaccine or, if they don't happen, herd immunity."
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On April 22, Polis focused on Coors Field. He said he hoped that 60,000 fans would be able to watch the Rockies in person during a pennant race, with everyone "packed in closely, eating and drinking." However, he conceded, "It's very difficult to get hygienic and distancing things right," so "as much as it pains me," sports in the near future will have to take place "in a different way. That's why they've been having discussions about spring training games with no audience."
He promised that "we'll get there. We all can't wait. But that's not May."
This timeline is holding: MLB owners are now thinking about getting the season under way in July. But other governors are open to earlier first pitches — among them Texas's Greg Abbott, who's floated a May 31 return. Likewise, California's Gavin Newsom has discussed games as early as the first week in June — and even New York's Andrew Cuomo, whose state has been hit hardest by the virus, hasn't dismissed the prospect of Yankees and Mets players hitting the diamond in the coming months.
Fans in the stands aren't part of the plan, but Polis told Jhabvala that he thinks accommodations might be made for a handful of on-site viewers: "I did suggest to the commissioner that they maybe have ten or fifteen people they honor and allow free to represent the rest of us at every game, like nurses [or] members of our military night. I think that’s symbolically important. It’s easy to have ten, fifteen people at a distance from one another. And we can all watch vicariously through them and we can watch on TV."