When the Miami Hurricanes take the field at Mark Light Field for the first home game of the season in two weeks, the only thing that will be normal will be the game of baseball. Everything else, different.
On Tuesday afternoon, UM President Julio Frenk announced that fans will be allowed at Mark Light Field for the 2021 baseball season.
“Intercollegiate athletics will continue without in-person fans, with the exception of Hurricanes Baseball, which will be played outdoors at Mark Light Stadium beginning Feb. 26 with mandatory physical distancing and use of face covers,” Frenk said in the email sent out to students.
The crowd will be limited, most likely 15-20 percent capacity, which would put under 1,000 fans socially distanced in the stadium. UM Director of Athletics Blake James is confident they can have fans attend in a safe way. James also noted that a number of tickets will be alloted to UM students to attend home games.
“Their presence at our games is an important part of the collegiate experience for our guys so it’s good to have the students out there and that’s something we wanted to make sure we had in place,” James said Tuesday afternoon.
As for the team, only 20 people are allowed in the dugout at once, so some of the players will be sitting in the chair backs next to the dugout and some are going to be sitting on the foul line, out of play by the bullpen, according to Miami head coach Gino DiMare.
The team gets tested a minimum of once a week and players and coaches must be tested no sooner than three days before a game.
During preseason, the team locker room was separated, with half of the team using the locker room and the other half using a team meeting room upstairs. No one was allowed to shower at the stadium and players had to use bathrooms in the stadium concourse. Tables were set up in the concourse area for players to sit at when they were not on the field. Most team meetings happened over zoom.
During practice, all team members are required to wear a mask, with neck gaiters the face covering of choice for most of the players and coaches.
Players on the field or in the batter’s box are not required to wear masks and DiMare said that most of his players will play without masks, citing the difficulty and dangers of batting with a gaiter on.
“When they are playing they do not have to wear the gaiter,” DiMare said. “It can be a little dangerous hitting with a gaiter on and seeing so we are so spread out in baseball that I think that’s okay but when coaches are in the dugout, whenever you are close we have to put on the masks and of course we have to wear them during the games anyway.”
There are also strict guidelines for traveling to away games. Similar to other college sports, no one can leave the hotel they are staying at.
“The most normal thing will be when we play the game on the field,” DiMare said. “That will be the most normal, nothing changes really.”
Senior captain and first baseman Alex Toral says he feel like his team is being responsible about who they are around outside the ballpark and they know how crucial it is to keep themselves safe from Covid-19 in order to play this season.
“It feels like most of the guys are pretty disciplined, they know what’s at stake here,” Toral said. “They know that now is our time. It’s time to just be focused on one thing and one thing only and that’s being able to go out there are play every weekend as a healthy roster. The more guys we have available, the better we are going to be to do into the depths of our bench and our pitching staff. Honestly, I think guys know what they need to do in order to stay safe and everybody seems to be following protocol.”
Canes fans who are able to attend a game will also be happy to know that the Mark Light Shakes will be serving at home games, but are still waiting to hear about rules and regulations.
Miami opens its season this Friday, Feb. 19 in Gainesville, Florida against the No. 1 Florida Gators.