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Hal Steinbrenner expects some fans in Yankee Stadium in 2020

New York Yankees fans arrive to Game 3

New York Yankees fans arrive to Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, at Yankee Stadium. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Hal Steinbrenner doesn’t believe the 2020 baseball season will be played entirely without fans.

At least, not inside Yankee Stadium.

“I do expect to see fans in our stadium at some point to some degree, and that’s going to be a great day as well,” the Yankees managing general partner told the YES Network on Thursday.

The Yankees, who officially will open their second spring training Saturday at the Stadium, are scheduled to open the season July 23 in Washington against the defending champion Nationals. Major League Baseball has not officially released the 2020 schedule – though elements of it have been leaked – so it’s not yet clear when the Yankees' home opener would be. Whenever it is, there won’t be fans, but Steinbrenner reiterated he doesn’t think that will be permanent. Not in New York where the COVID-19 numbers are far better than in other parts of the country.

“Well, those conversations have already happened,” Steinbrenner said of fans attending games at the Stadium. “We’ve also had a lot of conversations with the governor’s office and he’s [Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo] been great.  He’s been a big advocate to getting sports back on the field and then eventually, when things are safe, to get fans back in the Stadium. So between the two of them, we’ve had multiple conversations over the course [of], really, the last month.”

If fans are eventually allowed in, Steinbrenner said it likely won’t be anything close to full capacity.

“We’ve done a lot of work,” Steinbrenner said. “Ticketmaster has been great helping us out, really putting a diagram together which would keep everybody at least six feet apart, and it would be limited.  I’m sure it’ll be in the 20-30% [capacity] range, hopefully, at first. It’s definitely possible in the Stadium to keep people at a safe distance, wearing masks at those capacities.”

As for moving spring training to New York – and out of the Yankees’ longtime home in Tampa – Steinbrenner called it a “difficult” decision but one necessitated by the still-exploding COVID-19 numbers in Florida.

“We had spent weeks and weeks and weeks really perfecting sanitization techniques and products and [we] got a lot of outside advice and we had both facilities [Steinbrenner Field and the nearby minor league complex] down there ready to go, safe as any facilities anywhere in the country,” said Steinbrenner, who lives in Tampa. “But, as you said, things [COVID numbers] did heat up, so, you know, we made the decision.  Things were calming down up here [in New York], to move back, even though the facilities were probably better for that amount of people down in Tampa.”

Steinbrenner added later: “We’ll get through it.  We’ll make sure that everybody is safe, everybody is keeping their distances and following the protocols. We’ll make it happen.”

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