St. Paul Saints celebrate home opener with COVID-19 restrictions

Baseball is back at CHS Field, and St. Paul Saints fans are celebrating.

"Oh, it’s great," exclaimed Charlie Stewart, a longtime fan. "What a great night for a baseball game. It’s perfect."

But for the team’s home opener, there are plenty of COVID-19 precautions in place, including pre-set safe seating at 50% to 60% capacity, mandatory masking, and deep cleaning before and after the game.

"it’s distancing, it’s masking," said Saints Vice President Tom Whaley. "We still do have folks distance and seated in pods and whatnot, just for these next two weeks to ramp up. Ramp up responsibility, we’re calling it."

Gov. Tim Walz was here too.

"This is the assignment we’ve been waiting for," he told reporters. "This is a lot better than being out at the Department of Public Safety."

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS asked the governor how he hopes to persuade Minnesotans who are reluctant to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

"It’s about giving people transparency, data," he said. "It’s about getting them next to trusted folks who do this."

Just inside the front gates to the venue, a group of Cub Foods pharmacists was ready to dispense 200 shots of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Waiting in line was John Fitzgerald, from St. Paul, who agreed the setting was a little unusual for a vaccine clinic.

"I would say it’s weird, but in a good way," Fitzgerald smiled. "It’s a lot of fun to get your shot taken here. Get it taken care of and enjoy the rest of the evening."

For Kelsey Canaday, of St. Paul, it was a day of firsts: her first Saints ballgame and her first COVID-19 vaccination.

"I’ve never been here before, so I thought it would be a perfect time to get vaccinated and check out a ballgame for the first time," she declared.

Make no mistake, this home opener is different.

"This is a pain," Stewart says, gesturing to his mask.

"We’re vaccinated," his wife Katie pointed out.

The team says CHS Field capacity will be limited to 50% to 60% capacity for the next two weeks. After that, the Saints will go on the road. The team’s next home game, on June 8, will be at full capacity.

Stewart is among those trying to be team players, on and off the field.

"It is what it is," he says. "And we’ll live with it for a couple of months and then we’ll be back to normal."