COVID-19, The Giants, & Joy: Larry Baer on How the 2021 MLB Season Played Out

At lunchtime in San Francisco, the city’s once vibrant downtown is quiet and the shops are shuttered. The local restaurants are closed down too, and trash is blown freely about right outside the front doors. Larry Baer, Giants CEO, says that the city is at about 5% of what it once was.

Getting this city back up and running is going to take a lot of work, and it’s unlikely that everyone will agree on how exactly to make this happen. Of course, there have been some bright spots for denizens who call the Bay Area their home. For one, the Giants managed to break through some of the fear in their games against the Dodgers. We’ll look more at the morale of the city, the 5-game series, and the larger impact of the home team.

Changing the Way of Life 

The pandemic has done a number of how all of us live. Big-name firms told (and continue to tell) their employees to stay home. It’s made many residents take their chances by getting out of the city entirely. Normally, there would be a million people within a short distance of the ballpark. It wouldn’t take more than a stroll or a cheap Uber ride to catch a Giants game.

Baer says, “We have an urban ballpark, but we don’t have an urban life. Urban life still hasn’t returned because the employers haven’t returned.” If no one is going to the office and all those big buildings are going unused, it tears the entire fabric of San Francisco apart. However, just because people have had to make more of an effort, doesn’t mean no one’s been going to see the games. In fact, the Giants have been a huge source of comfort amidst the chaos of COVID.

The Corner of 2nd and King 

This intersection is more than a location. It’s a chance for people to stop thinking about the stress at home and the uncertainty of the daily news. This is the home of Giants where cheers erupt and troubles melt as a result. Whoever’s sitting next to you isn’t an adversary, they’re a neighbor who wants the same outcome you do.

At Game 5, around 41,000 fans got together at Oracle Park to watch them rattle Los Angeles. While they might not have won against their long-term rival, that didn’t take away from the joy people felt during the series. In Game 1, the Giants players were completely blown away by the enthusiasm of the crowd. Larry Baer couldn’t believe it.

Through tears, he thought about how hard people have worked to get back to where we are. Even when we have a long way to go, making as much progress as we have has been truly astonishing. “I think there’s a lot of people in this community [who are] kind of climbing Mount Everest to get back.”

Acting Like Real Fans Again 

The last few games the Giants played gave people a chance to act like real fans again. This isn’t the cardboard cut-outs of last year, or the socially distanced pods of earlier this year. These are real people flocking to the stands and giving the players everything they’ve got. Hugging, high-fiving, dancing: it was all there.

The team has certainly noticed the difference. Third baseman Evan Longoria said that the start of the year saw a lot of hesitation. It was only as the season progressed that he started seeing more and more people trickle in. To finish off the season with so much support, he couldn’t have asked for anything more from the fans.

In fact, Baer said that the crowd was louder than the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014. It certainly had more meaning than the prior games too. Everyone needed a catharsis by the time they rolled into the park and they got it.

At the beginning of the season, the stadium was limited to 8,000 people. Even as they continued winning, they still couldn’t sell out their tickets. Transportation had been cut down and there was a lot of wondering about who was vaccinated and who wasn’t. Now that isolation is finally starting to break down a little, and it’s welcome to anyone who’s ready for a change. Larry Baer was blown away by the resiliency of everyone in the stadium on those special nights, and he’s looking forward to what next year has to bring.

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