Spring Training 2021 is unlike any other. Last year was when COVID-19 was just becoming a thing and as news reports hit about the coronavirus changes were made and on March 12 it was abruptly ended.
After playing a shortened season with several stoppages due to the virus, the Cardinals are out on the fields getting ready for whatever happens this year. As of this writing, fans are not allowed in the practices. In the past, many enjoy the lazy mornings or afternoons spent on the backfields watching the players practice. As the photo below shows, you can’t keep the Cardinals fans away from their team. Many have figured out how to go in the back gate off of Central Avenue and are watching from behind the fence, some with binoculars.
The coronavirus is definitely throwing a monkey wrench into every aspect of Spring Training this year, but MLB and the Cardinals are doing everything they can to assure they will have a complete Spring Training and a successful, healthy season.
In order to do that they have made some changes to the set-up. At first it was just the players, coaches and minimum personnel. The Cardinals were working on a protocol for the next tier of people– including the media to be inside nearer to the players. Monday was the first day writers and reporters were allowed in.
The photo to the right is the media view from the perch in the Kissell Quad tower. It’s a good place to watch all four fields in action.
The media is divided into two parts and four members watch in the morning and four others in the afternoon.
From the perch, shown in the photo, left, the first group was able to watch the first few rounds of batting practice. Rob Rains was in the first group so was able to see what was happening at that time and those who went later in the day saw what was happening then.
There are six total fields the players practice on and four of them are visible from the quad tower.
COVID-19 prohibits everyone from having the same interaction as in the past but this special area allows reporters to be in the ballpark and the Cardinals media relations department is accommodating with Zoom calls for interviews.
Normally Cardinals personnel as well as credentialed media park in the same parking lot and peacefully mill around with a picnic table in the area just off the lot, but this year as a part of 2021’s Spring Training COVID-19 protocol, multiple tents have been set up.
After visiting the area, we asked Mike Shildt about it:
“Every meal is eaten outside,” he said. “We have designated meeting space. We also have a designated area for some of the COVID stuff that takes place–the testing. We have areas for the guys to eat, and relax a little bit and work out. A little bit of work is done inside, changing clothes and showering butt most of it is done outdoors. I’m thankful for the organization to set it all up.”
John Mozeliak added that “there will be no food allowed indoors,” saying that “Right now the major league protocol is that you are not allowed to attend an indoor restaurant at this time.”
Before access was allowed on Monday, the media could see through the fences what was going on. The weather has been great, allowing for outdoor practice and good social distancing. Some of the Cardinals personnel wear masks and some players wear masks when standing around and not actually doing drills or playing. Aside from the pandemic rules it is business as usual out on the fields.
This year the Cardinals put in a new batting cage and pitching area. There is an indoor part and an outdoor part and it’s located near the fields, straight in from the players parking lot for those who know the area.
So far every aspect of Spring Training looks different– with the fields and social distancing. The front entrance to the stadium looks different too– but not due to the pandemic.
There is actually a giant piece of art that is a pair of glasses sitting right outside Roger DeanChevrolet Stadium.
“The sunglasses are a rotating display used to promote the arts throughout Palm Beach County,” stadium general manager Mike Bauer told us. “They are property of the Cultural Council.”
They will be on site throughout Spring Training. To find more information on their organization at https://www.palmbeachculture.com/
We hope you are enjoying our early Spring Training coverage.