PHOENIX — Even during a pandemic, the appetite to sit in the sun and watch Major League Baseball spring training appears robust.
The Arizona Diamondbacks sold out their entire spring allotment of tickets in less than 24 hours after they went on sale to the public. Approximately 2,200 tickets were sold for all 14 of the team's home games, with fans spread throughout the park in pods of two, four or six seats and masks are required except when eating or drinking.
That's 20 percent of the stadium's normal 11,000-person capacity.
“The fact that it sold out as fast as it did — that fires me up,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “We've been looking forward to this day as much as them.”
The Colorado Rockies — who share Salt River Fields with the D-backs — have also sold out of tickets to their home games. The two teams open their spring training schedule against each other Sunday.
The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community own Salt River Fields, an award winning ballpark located in the reservation's business corridor in Scottsdale. Salt River Fields opened in 2011 and is surrounded by 12 practice fields.
Spring training facilities across Arizona and Florida have been making their own decisions about how many fans — if any — are allowed to attend games.
Arizona pitchers Zac Gallen and Stefan Crichton said that having fans in the park would be a welcome change. All 30 teams played without fans during the pandemic-shortened, 60-game schedule in 2020. Limited fans were allowed during the postseason.
“Hopefully we can keep taking steps toward getting the stadiums full,” Crichton said.
(Related: Play Ball! Spring training on the ‘rez’)
New COVID-19 cases have gone down in Arizona over the past few weeks, just like they have throughout most of the country. As of Monday, Salt River had 13 active cases as of Thursday, and is offering the vaccine to citizens 18 and older. It held a second does vaccination event last weekend.
Lovullo said his team would continue to strictly follow the league's protocols but seeing fans is another reminder that baseball might be a little more “normal” in 2021.
“We missed our fans,” Lovullo said. “Not just Diamondbacks fans but I think baseball fans throughout the entire United States. We've lost a little bit of a connection. We've done what we could in our special way in Arizona to remain connected to our core group of fans, but the fact that they're out there, they sold out, it doesn't surprise me at all.
"Fans have been patiently waiting for these days.”
Colorado Rockies veteran outfielder Ian Desmond is opting out for a second straight season.
Desmond announced Sunday on his Instagram account that his “desire to be with my family is greater than my desire to go back and play baseball under these circumstances. I’m going to train and watch how things unfold.” He added “for now” in his statement to opt out, leaving the door open for a possible return.
The 35-year-old Desmond is in the final year of a five-year, $70 million deal he signed in December 2016. He is scheduled to make $8 million this season. Colorado has a $15 million option for 2022 with a $2 million buyout.
Desmond has held multiple baseball camps for Salt River youth over the years. Desmond has a special fielding glove that was designed by artist and Salt River tribal citizen Jacob Butler.
Indian Country Today has contributed to this report