PHOENIX – The only sign of activity outside of Chase Field on Thursday afternoon was a slight noise from a construction crew, who were busy putting up some signs for an upcoming college football game.
On the other hand, the home of Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks is quiet, almost serene.
That’s fine – and even expected – on December 2nd. The point is if it still feels like this on March 31st.
That’s the date the 2022 MLB season is scheduled to begin, and the downtown Chase Field lounge will be bustling with fans, ready to kick off its 162-game schedule with the match of the day against the Milwaukee Brewers. But it’s unclear if that game or any other will take place this spring as the sport has entered its first phase of shutdown in 26 years.
Bill Pupo – a longtime baseball fan and Diamondbacks season ticket holder – said he hopes for a quick resolution, but also admits the current labor controversy feels like the 1994 strike. -95 lasted 7 and a half months and wiped out the series world for the first time in 90 years.
“I think ownership has the power to generate profits,” says Pupo. “The players feel like they need a bigger piece of the pie and I don’t blame them. They are talented entertainers.
“The question is, where is the average?”
The MLB labor duel divides the league’s owners versus players with a notable third party watching: the fans. Those who buy tickets will not be very sympathetic to the public quarrels between owners and players.
Even in the best of times, fans wanted their baseballs, and it was clear that after the 1994-95 strike, fans were slow to forgive. Some never do.
Thanks in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, this has not been the best of times. The 2020 regular season has been significantly shortened and takes place in parks without fans. Last season was better, but crowd capacity limits were still in place in many locations.
Now labor conflict. This topic popped into everyone’s mind after a softball game on an artificial turf field in Manhattan near the Hudson River.
“It’s going to let people down,” said Joe Cannizzo, 63, of Brooklyn, who describes himself as “a lifelong Yankee fan, a lifelong baseball fan” who is wearing a Curtis Granderson t-shirt.
His friend Paul Weinstein, 60, of Queens, said he grew up playing baseball “seven days a week, 12 hours a day”.
But at this point, he said, “I think we’re defeated.”
“I understand collective bargaining and unions,” he said. “And I think we have some of the greatest players that have ever played right now – Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw, etc. It was the golden age of baseball, and nobody cared.”
“We have become disinterested. Fans are marginalized, there are too many other things, too many other sports that have pulled them away,” he said.
Pupo wasn’t able to attend the Diamondbacks games in 2020 due to COVID-19 so he rolled out his season ticket to 2021. He still doesn’t feel comfortable going to the games because of the pandemic so he turned around. replay those games into 2022. Now – because of the lockdown – there’s a chance this season will be affected as well.
The sport’s labor issues – alongside the D-back’s recent struggles – make him wonder if it’s worth the money and trouble.
“It’s a cumulative effect,” says Pupo.
For now, fans have nothing to do but wait and hope. MLB owners and players could have around three months to come to an agreement before the regular season is affected.
How many fans will be around to see when they return? That remains to be seen.
“I’m very forgiving of this game, so I’ll go when they start playing again,” said Cannizzo, the Yankees fan at the softball game.
AP baseball writer Ben Walker of New York contributed to this story.
Other AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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https://www.ksat.com/sports/2021/12/02/winter-of-waiting-baseball-fans-hope-mlb-lockout-fleeting/ Baseball fans hope the MLB lockdown will pass