Spring Training Games Delayed After Letter to MLB

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Spring Training game at Salt River Fields in 2019. O'odham Action News Archives

As pitchers and catchers arrive on February 17, the spring training 2021 opener has moved back one day to February 28, with the Colorado Rockies facing the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. 

This comes after Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community President Martin Harvier joined Valley mayors and Cactus League Executive Director Bridget Binsbacher in signing a letter to Major League Baseball (MLB) requesting a delay in the start of spring training due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) rejected the proposal, which also included MLB’s proposal to push back the start of spring training from February 17 to March 22, delaying the regular season and cutting the usual 162 games down to 154. 

“As the Community president, I joined with local city mayors in writing a letter to the Major League Baseball commissioner, Rob Manfred, with a request to delay the upcoming spring training season. The reason for sending the letter was [the] concern, not only we and the surrounding cities have, but nation-wide, [regarding] the COVID-19 pandemic that we’re going through,” said Harvier. “Right now, Arizona has one of the highest [positive] rates of [the virus] in the testing that’s being done.” 

O’odham Action News reached out to Cactus League representatives for a statement on the delay but has not heard back at this time. 

According to Chris Bonnell, director of marketing for Salt River Fields, the opener is postponed because MLB was addressing some scheduling issues and directed Salt River Fields to cease selling tickets until that is addressed. 

A pre-sale offer for upcoming games was initially presented to SRPMIC members and tribal employees from January 26 to February 2. Due to the scheduling changes, any tickets purchases for spring training 2021 will be returned and the money will be refunded to the card used to purchase the tickets. Buyers will need to repurchase the games they want to attend. If your tickets were transferred to you, the refund will be given to the original ticket purchaser. Pre-sales will start on February 17 and tickets will be available to the general public on February 20 at 10 a.m. For current ticket and spring training schedule information head to https://saltriverfields.com/spring-training-at-salt-river-fields/

Salt River Fields said in a notice that “Salt River Fields is following safety guidelines and protocols set by local, state and federal organizations in order to host fans this season. Seating capacity will be limited and fans will be seated in a ‘pod.’ These ‘pods’ will be available in groups of two-, four- or six-person options. The buyer must purchase the entire pod and cannot buy fewer seats than are in the pod. The seating setup will allow for the recommended social distancing.”

All attendees will be required to wear face masks at all times, except for when they are actively eating or drinking in their seats. For more information on COVID-19 safety protocols, visit www.saltriverfields.com/covid19info/

President Harvier asked Community members to be safe if they are attending spring training games and other events with large groups of people. 

“I would just hope that any of our Community members and fans that visit the ballpark really try to follow the protocols that are out there,” he said. “Wear your face mask, wash your hands while you’re there at the stadium, and I’m sure there is going to be hand sanitizer available. Whatever is there for you to use, just use it for your safety and the safety of those [with you]. We look forward to this upcoming season. 

“Again, we want the season to go on, we were hoping for the delay, but being denied we just have to move forward in the safest manner that we can.”

Harvier and SRPMIC Vice-President Ricardo Leonard are scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the spring training opener, which begins the celebration of the 10th anniversary of Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. 

This is a developing story and you can head to www.oodhamnews.org for current information. 

2-17 UPDATE: Ticket pre-sale for the 2021 spring training season for SRPMIC members and Tribal employees began Wednesday, February 17 at 10 a.m. MST and ends Friday, February 19 at midnight. Go to https://linktr.ee/SRPMIC for more spring training pre-sale information.

2-22 UPDATE: All spring training home games for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick are sold out.