Pandemic World Series draws smallest crowd in over century – Sportsnet.ca
ARLINGTON, Texas — Julie and Lance Smith walked through the mostly empty concourse of Globe Life Field.
Tampa Bay infielder Joey Wendle is married to one of their cousins, and they weren’t going to miss his World Series debut.
“It’s so weird,” said Julie Smith, 38, from Gadsden, Alabama.
“It’s kind of nice in a way, too,” Lance, 39, said before they headed to their seats in the first deck behind home plate.
They wore masks, but many fans ignored the requirement for facial coverings except while eating or drinking at their ticketed seats.
A crowd of 11,388 attended the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ 8-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Tuesday night’s World Series opener, spread in groups of up to four, mostly in alternate rows and none directly behind each other among the forest green seats.
That was the smallest Series crowd since 10,535 attended Game 6 in 1909 between the Tigers and Pittsburgh at Detroit’s Bennett Park, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Major League Baseball planned to make about 28% available of the 40,518 capacity at the retractable-roof stadium of the Texas Rangers. The new $1.2 billion venue opened this year and replaced Globe Life Park, the team’s open-air home from 1994 through 2019. During batting practice, through the new stadium’s glass walls, the sun glistened off the red brick of the old stadium across the street beyond left field, a field now used for high school football.
Behind home plate, the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium gleamed like a spaceship.
World Series games are usually festive, packed early with fans celebrating the dual accomplishments of their team making it to baseball’s ultimate stage and of their snagging hard-to-find tickets, usually displayed in plastic hanging from lanyard draped around their necks.
But this World Series had a surreal, at times sombre feel caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. The small crowd was supplemented with fan audio from stadium speakers.
No fans were allowed into any of the 898 regular-season games this season, which were played in mostly empty ballparks due to governmental health restrictions.
Players’ families were allowed starting for the 18 first-round playoff games, the 15 Division Series games and the AL Championship Series between Tampa Bay and Houston in San Diego, with fans added for the Dodgers’ matchup against Atlanta in the NL Championship Series in Arlington, an average of 10,835 for the seven games. Roughly the same amount of tickets were sold for each World Series game.
Behind third base, a group of fans in Dodgers gear watched after flying in.
Brian Casey, a 29-year-old from Glendale, California, booked a plane ticket ahead of Sunday night’s win over the Braves, knowing he had 24 hours to cancel without penalty, then made a decision after the Dodgers rallied for a 4-3 win. He was in attendance when they last won the World Series in 1988 as a kid and was at Dodger Stadium when they played Boston in 2018. He watched Tuesday with Ryan Radenbaugh, 37, from Burbank.
“We just went to buy souvenirs and it was all Rangers stuff,” Radenbaugh said.
Noah Garden, MLB’s chief revenue officer, said the pandemic made it difficult to get gear shipped in the short time after teams won pennants last weekend.
MLB made the decision to play with the roof open. It was closed until the Dodgers started to warm up about 3 1/2 hours ahead of first pitch, then slid open as the public address system played Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarasuthra,” known to many as the opening music from Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
The usual pregame introductions of teams were dispensed with. When the a cappella group Pentatonix sang a recorded version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” played on the 58×150-foot video board in right field and the 40-x111-foot board in the left-field corner, about 18 Dodgers were in front of the first base dugout and on the right field line, and roughly a dozen Rays were by the third base dugout and on the left-field line.
A live flyover of four jets followed, and ceremonial first pitches were thrown by medical personnel who assisted during the pandemic: Brittney Burns, a nurse practitioner from San Antonio; Erika Combs, an oncology and kidney transplant nurse at a Dallas hospital; and Jamie Edens and Ryan Ward, nurses from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who are a married couple.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who was on hand, yelled “Play Ball!” into a microphone and retired Dodgers announcer Vin Scully delivered by video recording: “It’s time for Dodger baseball!” just before Clayton Kershaw walked to the mound.
FOLLOW LIVE: Dodgers blowing out Rays in Game 1 – TSN
It all comes down to this. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays are just four wins away from a championship as they meet in Game 1 of the World Series. Clayton Kershaw makes his fifth World Series start, while Tyler Glasnow makes his Fall Classic debut. Keep up with the action all game long with TSN.ca’s Game 1 live blog.
Rays – 3
Dodgers – 8
11:14pm – Pedro Baez enters the game for the Dodgers in the eighth inning and gets a 1-2-3 inning of his own. Dodgers lead 8-3 going into the bottom of the eighth.
11:04pm – Josh Fleming gives the Rays exactly what they need with a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the seventh to hold the Dodgers at eight runs and Tampa Bay remains fives runs back with two innings to play.
10:58pm – Mike Zunino fires a 105.6 mph line drive right up the middle of the field, but Gonzalez snags it and turns to double off Brosseau at second base and escape the jam.
10:54pm – Kevin Kiermaier follows up the Brosseau single with a single of his own to score Wendle from third, the Rays now trail by five.
10:52pm – Brosseau singles on a 3-2 slider to cut the Dodgers lead to six.
10:49pm – More gamesmanship from the Rays, as Mike Brosseau will now hit for Choi.
10:46pm – Joey Wendle doubles to give the Rays a runner of second and third with one out. Ji-Man Choi enters the game to pinch hit with the Rays down seven, and the Dodgers counter with brining in lefty Victor Gonzalez.
10:40pm – Dylan Floro takes the mound for the Dodgers to start the seventh inning, meaning Clayton Kershaw‘s night is over. Kershaw finishes the night with eight strikeouts and gives up just one run on two hits.
10:32pm – Justin Turner and Max Muncy hit back-to-back doubles to extend the Dodgers lead to 8-1.
10:30pm – MOOKIE NUKE – In the fifth Mookie Betts did it with his legs, in the sixth he leads off the inning with a home run to right field.
10:26pm – The long wait between innings means nothing for Kershaw as he comes out for the sixth inning and needs just nine pitches to retire the Rays in order.
10:18pm – Los Angeles adds two more runs before Austin Barnes flies out to end the inning. The Dodgers score four in the fifth to extend their lead to five runs.
10:07pm – DODGERS CHASE GLASNOW – Will Smith singles in another run and Tyler Glasnow‘s night has come to an end. He leaves with one out in the fifth, two runners on base and trailing 4-1.
10:00pm – MOOKIE MAGIC – Mookie Betts walks to lead off the fifth inning, steals second and third and scores from third on a ground ball hit to the first baseman. The Dodgers regain their two-run and now are up 3-1.
9:43pm – KIERMAIER GOES DEEP – Kevin Kiermaier cuts the Dodgers lead in half with a home run to right field.
9:38pm – Glasnow walked the next batter following the Bellinger home run, but limits the damage by striking out the final two batters of the inning. The Dodgers lead 2-0 heading to the fifth inning.
9:25pm – BELLI BOMB – Cody Bellinger opens the scoring with a two-run home run to right field. It’s his second in two games.
9:18pm – Another three up-three down inning for Kershaw. He now has six strikeouts after four innings and has not given up a hit since the leadoff single to start the game.
9:09pm – GLASNOW ANSWERS – Tyler Glasnow gives up a walk to Corey Seager but strikes out the side. The 26-year-old now has five strikeouts after three innings.
8:57pm – KERSHAW CRUISING- Clayton Kershaw has retired eight-straight Rays players and picks up his third and fourth strikeouts. The 32-year-old has given up just two base runners through three innings.
8:51pm – Glasnow gives up his first hit of the night, but nothing more and we’re headed to the third inning tied 0-0.
8:40pm – ABC, easy as an 1-2-3 inning for Kershaw. The southpaw needed just 11 pitches to get through his second inning of work.
8:34pm – Glasnow gives up a walk to Corey Seager and nothing more. Off to the second inning we go.
8:26pm – Just like his Kershaw, Glasnow opens his night with a first-pitch fastball for a strike.
8:23pm – Díaz leads off the game with a single and Randy Arozarena reaches on a walk, but the Rays fail to capitalize and we’re headed to the bottom of the first tied 0-0.
8:11pm – We are underway, Clayton Kershaw fires a first pitch strike to Yandy Díaz to begin the World Series.
*All times EST*
Over his six World Series appearances, Kershaw is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in 26.2 innings. The southpaw has made three starts in the 2020 playoffs, picking up wins over the Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres. But he struggled in his only start of the NLCS, giving up four runs in five innings to the Atlanta Braves, getting tagged with the loss.
Glasnow, 26, starts the first World Series game for the Rays since 2008. Like his counterpart, Glasnow picked up a win in the opening two rounds of the playoffs, shutting down the Toronto Blue Jays, and holding the New York Yankees to four runs through 7.1 innings. The righty was tagged with the loss in his only ALCS start when he tossed six innings, giving up eight hits and four earned runs.
Behind Ilya Mikheyev’s last-minute RFA contract with Maple Leafs – Sportsnet.ca
TORONTO – Fewer than 24 hours before Wednesday’s scheduled arbitration case, restricted free agent Ilya Mikheyev and the Toronto Maple Leafs found common ground Tuesday night — although it did mean a last-minute financial concession on the player’s part.
The Russian winger and the club agreed to a two-year contract worth an average annual value of $1.645 million that will see Mikheyev in blue and white through the 2021-22 season and walk him to unrestricted free agency at age 27.
“Ilya decided to step off a little bit from an already agreed number to help the team fit under the cap,” Mikheyev’s agent, Dan Milstein, told Sportsnet after tweeting news of the signing.
“For Ilya, it was less about the money, but more about the role in the organization. He wishes to win the Stanley Cup. It’s been a lifelong dream.”
Mikheyev’s two-year pact carries a $1.1 million salary in 2020-21 and $2.19 million in 2021-22.
According to Milstein, the sides had initially agreed to a cap hit slightly higher than $1.645 million.
The agent was on the phone explaining the bridge deal’s terms to Mikheyev when the Maple Leafs quickly called back requesting the forward take slightly less so they could be cap compliant for 2021’s opening night.
The Leafs and Mikheyev discussed the sophomore’s position in a winger-loaded roster “extensively” during the negotiations, which had been ongoing for weeks.
“We know what they have going. We know what the goals are. Toronto and both camps communicated very clearly,” Milstein said. “We feel very comfortable about the next season, and Ilya is very excited about the next season as well.”
The 26-year-old Mikheyev — fast a fan favourite — appeared in only 39 games as a rookie with the Maple Leafs in 2019-20, scoring eight goals and adding 15 assists.
Returning for post-season action after suffering a gruesome wrist injury in late December, Mikheyev failed to register a point during the club’s five-game playoff qualification series versus Columbus.
“He would’ve liked to help the team get past Columbus, but overall this was a good first-year experience for him,” Milstein said. “He’s adjusted. He’s adapted. And I expect him to have a better season next year.”
He elected to file for salary arbitration to buy time, and a deadline, for amicable negotiations.
Mikheyev filed for one year at $2.7 million; the Leafs requested two years at $1 million.
But, Milstein maintains, the strongest efforts on both sides have long been directed at striking a two-year pact that worked to provide Mikheyev and his family a little more certainty in uncertain times.
The player affectionately known as “Mickey” to his teammates and “Souperman” to fans stayed up to the wee hours in Russia, where he’s training, in order to sign the paperwork.
“The first season didn’t go as well as planned, due to the injury, but it was never a question of whether he was coming back or not,” Milstein said. “He stayed up through the night, and we took care of business.”
Milstein has a tight working relationship with general manager Kyle Dubas and the Maple Leafs.
The agent is quick to note that 12 of his players have been welcomed into the Toronto system over the past three years, including winger Egor Korshkov (currently on loan to Yaroslav Lokomotiv of the KHL), 2020 first-round pick Rodion Amirov and new KHL import Alexander Barabanov.
“While we were negotiating (Mikheyev’s contract) and perhaps disagreeing a little bit, I had to stop and talk to (the Leafs) about another player,” Milstein said. “We try to have good relationships with everybody, but a client comes first.”
Barabanov, 26, will join Mikheyev in trying to secure ice time from coach Sheldon Keefe in a competitive forward group that has added Wayne Simmonds, Joe Thornton, Jimmy Vesey, Joey Anderson and Travis Boyd to the mix since free agency opened.
Barabanov flew to Toronto in early September and is preparing for his first North American campaign on this side of the pond.
Make no mistake: Like Mikheyev before him, Barabanov has his sights in the NHL, not the AHL.
“I feel good about his prospects. He’s a world-class player,” Milstein said. “I’m not a coach. I’m not going to make any predictions. But I feel good about it. You can quote me on that. I feel good about it. Barabanov is an Olympic champion.
“He is a phenomenal player, and I expect him to do well here in North America.”
With Mikheyev signed, the Maple Leafs only need to reach agreements with RFAs Travis Dermott and Anderson.
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