LAKELAND, Fla. — Despite the looming cloud of the coronavirus, the day wasn’t ruined for the fans that attended the Atlanta Braves and Detroit Tigers game at Joker Marchant Stadium on Thursday.
While this day will forever be known for when Major League Baseball suspended spring training and delayed opening day by two weeks, fans remained in cheery spirits and escaped the doleful reality with one passion that brings them all together — baseball.
Both teams are on different trajectories heading into their respective seasons. The Tigers currently find themselves in an aggressive, multi-year rebuild and show no signs of breaking out of this monotonous cycle. While the Braves, who loaded up with acquisitions in the off-season, have World Series aspirations.
“Everybody’s optimistic,” said Gary, a Braves fan. “(They) are going to win the pennant and the World Series.”
Tigers’ fans use a different method of optimism and continue to have faith in the organization’s process.
“The Tigers are in the rebuilding phase.” said Matt Teitsma, who has been supporting the Tigers through the highs and lows. “We (have had) the first overall pick two of the past three years, that’s the good part of the rebuild.”
The bad part of the rebuild is watching your team deteriorate before your own eyes. Although this hasn’t prevented fans from visiting the sunny confines of Florida to watch their team play its exhibition games.
For many in attendance, spring training is about spending time with family and using it as a getaway from their everyday lives. The atmosphere is great for fans of all ages.
Collin, a young Tigers fan, recounts his experience during last year’s spring training, when he won a race on the baseball diamond (in Crocs) and received a free pizza as his prize. He remembers the adulation that he received back at his hotel later that day, and exclaimed it was the proudest moment of his life.
Rick, an older gentleman who resides just outside of London, Ont., said he comes down for “the weather” and “(to get) close to the players.” Another fan Amy, who with her son Matthew, said she comes down because “(her) dad brought (her) down when she was a kid” and now she has the opportunity to do the same for her children.
Positivity was expressed throughout the day and excitement for this season was shown by both groups of fans. Their hope is that baseball will not be taken away from them for too long.