The boys in black and orange are back at Oracle Park. But the fans will be a bit… thin.
The Giants are set to play their home opener tonight at 6:45 p.m. against the San Diego Padres, after splitting their opening series against the mighty Dodgers two games to two. It’s the San Francisco debut of perhaps the strangest Major League Baseball season of all time, shortened to just 60 games due to the pandemic.
Instead of allowing real fans in the stadium, the Giants will populate Oracle Park’s grandstands with cardboard cutouts of Giants legends and local celebrities, including Willie Mays, Will Clark, E-40, and Tony Bennett. As we previously reported, for a mere $99, normal fans can join the cardboard party, too. At the end of the season, fans will be able to reclaim their cutout, which will be “authenticated by MLB as officially game-used.”
The Giants home opener, and the Oracle Park debut of new manager (and occasional fitness influencer) Gabe Kapler, will be overshadowed by the news that 17 members of the Miami Marlins baseball club have tested positive for COVID-19, casting doubt on the league’s ability to keep players and staff safe.
The Giants have also been at the center of MLB’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Kapler became the first manager to kneel during the national anthem (à la ex-49er Colin Kaepernick) during an exhibition game on June 21st, drawing a Twitter rebuke from President Trump.
Then, during the Giants official season opener vs. the Dodgers on Thursday, Giants relief pitcher Sam Coonrod was the only player on either team who refused to kneel during a moment of silence preceding the national anthem.
Coonrod later told the Mercury News, “I meant no ill will by it… I’m just a Christian. I believe I can’t kneel before anything but God, Jesus Christ.” He then added, “I can’t get on board on a couple of things I’ve read about Black Lives Matter, how they lean toward Marxism and said some negative things about the nuclear family.”
So far, the off-the-field distractions haven’t been a problem for the Giants, who performed better than expected against the World Series-favorite Dodgers. Tonight, fans will see if hometown cardboard provides any advantage.