Don’t mess this up Detroit Tigers fans; the state of Michigan is counting on you

Detroit Free Press

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Detroit Tigers fans received some great news   Friday morning.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will allow about 8,200 fans to go to Comerica Park on April 1 for Opening Day against the Cleveland Indians.

That’s fantastic.

But the pressure is now on Tigers fans to show that they can do the right thing. As fast as this measure loosened the turnstiles, another executive order could tighten them again..

That means following the proposed protocols at Comerica Park. For starters, wear your dang mask as it was intended — over your mouth and nose — not as a chin hammock.

You don’t want the governor to be sitting at home, flick on her TV and see a bunch of Tigers fans not wearing masks in the seats behind home plate, while she watches on “Bally Sports Detroit.”

Wait a second? Bally? Ugh. This is gonna take some time to get used to. And so will this new process of going to a Tigers game.

But it’s nothing outrageous. The protocols are pretty standard when you consider how we have been living the last year.

Tigers fans are in an incredible position right now; they can be the example. If Tigers fans prove they can gather in person for a game the right way, that could open things up for other sports in the fall.

But let me take a step back and look at the bigger picture. At all sports.

There is one more thing that sports fans, in general, can do that will impact everything:

Get the dang vaccine when it’s your turn.

The more people get the vaccine, the faster everything will return to normal.

You want to see Michigan football play in the Big House? Get the vaccine.

You want to see the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day? Get the vaccine.

You want to see your neighbor play high school football? Get the vaccine.

Sports is the one thing that unites us in this state. And sports fans have an incredible opportunity to help get life back to normal.

MORE FROM SEIDEL: Alex Lange’s road to Detroit Tigers paved by baseball bloodlines, incredible adoptive mother

An idea on how it may work

What can you expect at Comerica Park under the new protocols?

It will be similar to what we have seen at Joker Marchant Stadium at spring training in Lakeland, Florida.

And I have to say, I was impressed with how the Tigers did it.

The crowd was about 2,000 people — technically a sellout despite 20% of the seats being filled. Even then, it felt empty.

Pods of seats were grouped together, and the unused seats were zip-tied so nobody could use them. Each pod had its own aisle access to avoid unnecessary contact. 

Wearing a mask was required and stressed continuously. A real mask. Not a neck gaiter, bandana or masks with valves.

Nobody was allowed to use cash — credit cards only — to avoid exchanging bills.

Concession food was packaged together.

No bags were allowed, except for diaper and medical bags.

There were sanitation stations all around the facility. 

You can expect something similiar in Comerica Park.

“Tigers baseball is back, and we couldn’t be more excited to begin welcoming our great fans to Comerica Park again,” said Ilitch Holdings’ Chris Granger. “Safety is our top priority, and we have developed and invested in a plan that allows us to confidently provide fans a safe and entertaining experience. We’ve missed our fans greatly and can’t wait to celebrate the start of the season with them when the first pitch is thrown on Opening Day in Detroit.”

More: Come on, Gov. Whitmer: Let more Detroit Tigers fans into Comerica Park

More: Detroit Tigers’ plan for spring training fan attendance looks like a home run

Four simple steps

When I was at spring training, I watched the Tigers play the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota, Florida.

I was in a suite along with two other writers from Detroit — writers are usually seated by city.

I sat outside the suite while covering the game. About 20 feet from me, four Tigers fans sat together, not wearing masks.

An usher came up the steps and told them, “Mask up!”

All four complied. But it shouldn’t take an usher.

Again, let me stress: Wear your dang masks, people.

Hopefully, if Tigers fans do the right thing, it will impact the rest of our sports.

Hopefully, the case numbers will drop and we will see more fans in Michigan Stadium.

Maybe, if people get vaccinated, we will see more fans in Ford Field. 

Maybe, if we continue to take this seriously, life can start to feel normal again.

Just do these four things:

Mask up.

Keep washing your hands.

Follow the protocols.

And get the dang shot when it’s your turn.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel/.

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