Labatt Park can hold up to 1,100 fans for London Majors opener Friday
The 'boys of summer' are back in London, Ont.
"Joy, excitement, nerves," is how Julian Johnson describes opening night for the London Majors Friday at Labatt Park.
It will be the first major live event in the City of London in months.
"It's been a long time coming, and I think everybody's excited to be out at the ballpark," says Keith Kandel, London Majors shortstop.
The Majors will open up a 30-game Inter-County Baseball League schedule against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"When you step on this field you're just excited to be here," says Roop Chanderdat, Majors general manager and manager.
"Now because you lose a year and you get it back, you're so happy. I'm excited, not just for me, but for the players, the fans, and the City of London. I'm glad everyone can start coming back and watching baseball games."
Majors Manager Roop Chanderdat hits ground balls in London, Ont. on Friday July, 2, 2021. (Brent Lale / CTV News)
With the province in Stage 2 of the reopening plan, fans will be allowed at the Forks of the Thames River this summer.
Majors co-owner Scott Dart has been working hard behind the scenes with the city to make sure all protocols are in place and fans can be in the stands Friday night.
'We have worked with our health and safety team, with the Majors, and with our facilities teams to get 25 per cent capacity," says JP McGonigle, division manager with London's parks and recreation department.
"That percentage is around approximately 1,100 people. I'd like to say it's not nerve-wracking, but the reality of it is it has been 15 or 16 months since it's been safe to do this and so it comes with a certain level of angst, but a lot of that angst is driven by excitement."
Potentially allowing hundreds of fans per game will be great for the bottom line, but the team knows they'll never be able to get back what they've lost.
"We missed out on a July 1 home opener, and Father's Day," says Chanderdat.
"Those are big games, where you have 3,000-5,000 fans, but at the same time we're excited to get a 30-game schedule. We're going to get a lot of Friday nights, a few Saturday nights, I think three or four Sunday nights so there'll be a lot of ample time for fans to come and watch Majors' baseball."
The London Majors practice at Labatt Park in London, Ont. on Friday, July 2, 2021. (Brent Lale / CTV News)
One big change you'll notice is that tickets for all games will be sold only online in Stage 2, with no walk-ups allowed. That will help control capacity as well as contact tracing.
"I'm so excited, and hopefully we can sell out the opener Friday," says Johnson.
Each year there is a belief the club can contend for its first title since 1975.
However this season, results will take a backseat to just getting on the field, and giving baseball fans a chance to walk into one of the greatest minor league parks in the world.
"With the Jays being in Buffalo, I mean this is the baseball that we have and I think it's going to be a hot-ticket item," says Kandel.
The Majors announced late Tuesday that that tickets to the home opener had already sold out.