ARLINGTON, Texas — For more than a year now, everyone has wanted life as "normal" again.
Monday, Texas Rangers fans got a chance to try it out.
“I love baseball. I love the Rangers,” said Margie Landrum, who was at the home opener. “I didn’t think I’d ever get to see them again.”
When Gov. Greg Abbott took off capacity limits, Rangers fans began putting on gloves, hats and jerseys again.
With 38,238 fans, the Rangers’ home opener set a record for highest attendance at a US sporting event since the pandemic began. It was announced as a sellout for the stadium that holds 40,300.
“We’re glad to be back,” Brent Armstrong said. “It was tough last year not getting to watch it.”
“We ran immediately to the railing and my fiancé said, 'oh my god, the outfield is so big,” Brandon Coots, who drove up from New Braunfels said. “I said we get to play here? This is our ballpark?”
President Joe Biden made a plea for them to change course in an interview with ESPN last week.
“I think it's a mistake,” Biden said. “They should listen to Fauci, scientists and experts. I think it's not responsible.”
Health experts say it’s neither smart nor safe to have that many people together with the virus continuing to spread and take lives. Locally hospitalizations have trended downward. The latest predictive model from UT Southwestern suggests cases will flatten or rise in the coming weeks depending on how well people distance and wear masks.
“Yeah, I’ll say it feels weird,” Garrett Mahanay said. “It feels like should we be full hardcore happy about this.”
The Rangers are the only MLB team at 100% capacity, and the Houston Astros are second at 50%. Most teams have capacity in the 20%-30% range.
“I think it’s great,” Pug Landrum said. “We can’t stay shut up forever. I’m not going to live in fear my whole life.”
By contrast, the New York Mets are requiring fans attending games to either be fully vaccinated or have a negative COVID test close to game time.
While masks aren’t required under Abbott’s order, the Rangers are asking fans to keep them on unless actively eating or drinking. Most fans at Monday’s game took masks off once they were seated.
“I don’t usually wear a mask if I go to the grocery store, but I will respect the rules,” Stephanie Cotton said. “But I’m not worried at all.”
The past 13 months have been about sacrifices and priorities to help stop a virus.
“We haven’t done a lot of public things in the last year but for baseball, I’ll go and do anything,” Coots said.
Most health officials believe the end is in sight but getting back to ‘normal’ will take more patience, something Rangers fan should understand better than anyone.