As the boys of summer return, U.S. economy holds its breath

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Texas Rangers plan to welcome a capacity crowd of about 40,000 for their Major League Baseball home opener on April 5. In the nation’s capital, meanwhile, attendance at the Washington Nationals’ first game of the season will be capped at 5,000, roughly 12% of capacity.

In the country’s fitful battle for economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, a lot may ride on whether, come September, attendance for America’s pastime looks more like the Rangers than the Nats.

With nearly a third of U.S. adults having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and more states and cities relaxing restrictions that have become a staple of life over the last year, progress toward a full reengagement in public life remains a haphazard affair.

How the MLB regular season unfolds as 30 mostly U.S.-based teams play 2,430 games in stadiums beginning on Thursday, and what that reveals about the public’s willingness to gather with cheering, shouting strangers, will serve as one proxy for whether America races or crawls back towards normal life.

Reuters will be tracking attendance at all MLB games this season and will periodically revisit the issue over the next six months to report on what progress has been made and what it reveals about the economy’s recovery.

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