NEW YORK—Spring is in the air—at least we can hope. Yes, it does appear the tide is finally starting to turn against this awful year-long pandemic and perhaps even the harshest days of winter are winding down across the country.

But another sure sign that a new spring isn’t far off is the start of the Major League Baseball season.

Those magic words—pitchers and catchers are reporting—resonated against a wintry backdrop just two weeks ago and, thankfully, the real spring training games began this past weekend.

Everyone’s tied for first-place right now, and every team has a hot, new prospect rumored to be the next shining star in a sport that is inundated with young, talented, dazzling players who are capturing the hearts of fans.

It may not be a return to what we’re used to at a ballgame, but just having players on the field and fans in the stands marks a turning point of sorts in 2021.

And while the naysayers are quick to see the shortcomings of the sport once a clear consensus choice as America’s pastime, there are those among us who still love going out to the ballgame, enjoying the atmosphere of the ballpark and standing and singing the home team’s alma mater during the seventh-inning stretch. (I can almost hear Neil Diamond now, “… Sweet Caroline, good times never seemed so good….”)

So, in the hopes that baseball—and America—are getting back to normal, what follows are the sentiments of optical industry colleagues and how they feel about the upcoming season.

Did someone say, “Batter up”?

Story continues below...

Jason Ortman, OD, and his wife at Coors Field in Denver.

Jason Ortman, OD
Black Diamond Eye Care

I am a baseball fan and a Rockies’ season-ticket holder. Though the recent player moves by the Rockies have bummed me out, hope springs eternal every spring for a baseball fan.

I am looking forward to attending games this summer with my son, who is also a baseball fan!

I am sure stadium attendance will be limited, though the Rockies have not released their plan yet.

Jeff Todd takes in a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

Jeff Todd
President and CEO
Prevent Blindness

I’m excited that baseball season is just around the corner, and (once I’ve had the vaccine) I definitely hope to attend some games this year, as fans are allowed back in. While I imagine there will initially be limits to capacity, I’m hopeful that the atmosphere will be a lively and celebratory one.

Folks are ready to be back! As for my team—the Chicago Cubs, well we have Jake Arrieta back—a key player from our 2016 World Series year; but we have also lost few key players, which could make for a rough run. That said, if I’ve learned anything from this past year, it’s to stay optimistic and know that anything can happen.

Go Cubs!!

Peter Kehoe, OD, with his wife, son and daughter-in-law at a 2013 Cardinals' playoff game.

Peter Kehoe, OD, FAAO, FNAP
Kehoe Eye Care P.C., and a past president of the American Optometric Association (AOA)

I was a season ticket holder for over 20 years with the Cardinals and finally after the 2018 season decided my optometry travels and limited game attendance just didn’t justify the expenses. We had several great seasons during those years, and we were able to attend many games in October. My son and daughter-in-law were able to watch the famous comeback in Game 6 and the victory in Game 7 while I was off supporting our profession.

Last year was such an odd year in so many ways. If fans are allowed this year, which I believe they will, I’m sure there will be limited capacity or possibly even [requirements] like in some countries of a show your “I’m vaccinated” badge to attend. I plan to go to a game with my son and daughter-in-law to re-kindle the fire of Major League Baseball.

An open-air baseball stadium seems relatively safe, as long as concessions and restrooms are controlled or limited, so after vaccinations, I feel pretty safe attending.

As far as my Cardinals….they have picked up some really talented players and have a long tradition of prospects who are ready for the majors so I’m excited for their chances in 2021. I think they will either win the division or at least be a wild card and could seriously contend for the NLCS championship and get to the World Series. Their senior leadership with Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright and Matt Carpenter will help shepherd the kids to success, I believe.

I am optimistic that while 2021 will not be a normal season, it will be the 2021 new normal season. Some challenges with COVID, limited seating capacity, but overall, America and the world needs some normalcy and what better than baseball!

Olivia, Andrew, Mike and Frances Hanbridge are happy to see the Mets win this game Aug. 9, 2019, at Citi Field.

Michael Hanbridge
Marketing Manager, U.S. Market Development

We live near Cooperstown, N.Y., the birthplace of baseball. Our family is really into it. My son is a lefty and plays Little League and I coach. We also like to attend our local collegiate league games, the Oneonta Outlaws.

Our favorite professional team is the N.Y. Mets and we’d love to get down to Citi Field if that’s possible this year. The Mets already have a great young core with Pete Alonso and Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom.

The new owner has invested in more pitching depth and SS Francisco Lindor. It is a tough division and getting to the World Series will mean a trip though Los Angeles. Mets fans tend to be deliriously hopeful, so I’ll say we’re going to win it all. LGM!

In April 2016, Greenwood and his daughter Allie took in Opening Day in Arlington, Texas, when his Cleveland Indians visited the Rangers.

Jim Greenwood
Executive Chairman
Retina Consultants of America

As a baseball fan who was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, but who has lived in Texas for 40 years (primarily Dallas-Fort Worth), my loyalties are divided: the Cleveland Indians are 1A, and the Texas Rangers are 1B.

I believe attendance will be limited to 50 percent (in some states) while others may be more limited (see NFL 2020). I will likely attend a couple of games, and I would not be surprised if we are “back to normal” by August (in terms of large crowds being permitted). My team (the Indians) would be great in a Triple A league, and the Rangers will likely be just as bad.

Murph and Pat at Derek Jeter’s last game in Yankee Stadium.

Dennis Murphy
VP Sales—Optical Group
Jobson Optical Group

Caption: Murph and Pat at Derek Jeter’s last game in Yankee Stadium.

I am really hoping MLB can allow a growing percentage of fans to attend games as the summer passes. Wouldn't it be terrific to see full baseball and football stadiums by September/October? I will definitely attend some games. In the gloom of February hope springs eternal. Plus, as an advantage of age both my wife and I (she is a big Yankee fan, too) have been fully vaccinated. Do they make masks with a drinking flap?

Brandon and his wife Michelle are excited about the Padres’ prospects this season.

Brandon Williams
Sr. Director of Sales—Oakley / Costa
Optical Channel—Luxottica

I’m excited for the season and looking forward to attending games in person. It truly is America’s Pastime, and there’s not much better than Opening Day in MLB. I’d anticipate significant attendance restrictions remaining in place throughout the season, but I don’t think that will necessarily take away from the energy in the stadium. Once you get to 25 percent or more in attendance, you can still hear and feel the raw emotion associated with fan devotion and team loyalty.

I actually think we’re in a moment where people’s desire for sport and outdoors, as well as their passion for their team are starting to outweigh any ‘strange’ feelings that were present throughout 2020.

I’m a Padres fan and am super optimistic about where the team is going. We made a few big strides last year, finishing 2nd in the NL West, and have had a good offseason spent shoring up the rotation and adding a couple of young bats.

I think there’s a reason for real optimism heading into the 2021 season.

At Oakley, it has been exciting to watch our involvement with some of the sport’s most recognizable players through the year, with the most recent addition to our athlete roster being Francisco Lindor of the New York Mets.

Leslie Polley and her family at a Rockies game.

Leslie Polley
Director of Marketing
Total Vision

As much as my family and I love going to baseball games, we probably won’t attend a game this year. I’m under the impression that ticket prices will spike due to the limited number of tickets available. I also think the atmosphere is going to be much different because there will be a small percent of fans in attendance and many empty seats.

I think each organization will limit the capacity on attendance to a certain degree. I believe It will depend on COVID-19 restrictions for each city or state. For example, I know Florida currently has less restrictions, so the Marlins and the Rays might have more fans than a California team that has stricter COVID restrictions.

We are HUGE Colorado Rockies fans, and, as many baseball fans are aware, we have it pretty bad at the moment. The Rockies are the only team to not have signed a [free agent] player to their roster out of all 30 teams. I predict they will finish last in the NL West and they will finish 26th overall out of 30.

Sean Pate and his wife, Christy, at a Giants game in San Francisco.

Sean Pate
Brand Marketing and Communications Officer

I most definitely would like to attend a game as I miss the live event experience more than anything. Its chicken soup for my soul and overall morale. That said, depending on ticket prices (getting gouged due to admission limits) and total capacity I would consider what events to attend as a high school sports experience is not what I’m looking for when visiting a professional ballpark.

[Capacity limits] will vary based on state, for example Texas and Florida teams will push the envelope to return to normalcy quickly whereas California will relish hyper cautionary for as long as possible and only do the very bare minimum.

I am optimistic about my beloved San Francisco Giants. They missed the playoffs last season by literally one hit and that was a significant over-achievement based on expectations. Now in a full 162-game season, the question is can they continue that level of competitiveness all the way into September up against some of the most stacked teams in MLB in the Dodgers and Padres?

Amy Applegate with her husband Jeff at Opening Day a few years ago.

Amy Applegate
Creative Director
The Vision Council

I would attend a Nationals game this year if fans are allowed and proper precautions are taken at the ballpark. I think the experience will be different if fewer people are allowed to attend each game, but it will still be exciting to see live baseball for the first time in two years. The fans that do come out will be engaged and happy to be there.

I do think [attendance will be limited], especially early in the season.

I hope they’re able to stick to their full, 162-game season without delays or cancellations due to COVID. If they can keep the schedule and keep players on the field, I think it will feel like an almost normal season.

How will the Nationals do? That’s a tough one; this year’s Nationals team has changed a lot since the 2019 team that won it all. I hope we’ll be competitive, but I think we’ll probably end up 2nd or 3rd in the NL East.

Wrigley Field was one stop on Mark Tosh and his son Jonathan's odyssey to visit ballparks around the country.

Mark Tosh
Senior Editor
Vision Monday

A few years ago, my son and I began an unstructured effort to see as many Major League ballparks as reason would allow. He saw his first Major League game at the Skydome in Toronto (now the Rogers Centre) as a toddler, and over the years – between my travel to conferences and summer vacations – we’ve been everywhere from Pac Bell in San Francisco (now Oracle Park) to Jet Blue Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla., where the Red Sox hold spring training.

As he’s grown older, and started his own career in Chicago, we’ve been able to hit Wrigley Field, and thanks to Optometry’s Meeting in 2019 in Denver, we’ve been at Coors Field. Of course, as New Yorkers, we’ve been to Citi Field and Yankee Stadium, and even made the excursion to Fenway Park where our beloved Red Sox hold court.

We’re both hoping that baseball and other sports get back to normal, so we can continue this odyssey in the near future. (And I know the AOA is scheduled to meet in Anaheim, Calif., later this summer, so perhaps we can catch an Angels game.)

Right now, though, we’re going to have to be content with watching the Red Sox on television and biding our time while sports in America work to get back to normal.

As for the Red Sox, this year can only be better than the dismal last-place finish in the 2020 season.

There’s nowhere to go but up.