LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — After 20 months without Las Vegas Aviators baseball, nostalgia for America's pastime is real.
"The beautiful grass and dirt and the smells and the sights and the sounds. It's been too long," said Fran Riordan, the manager for the Las Vegas Aviators.
The Aviators are preparing to host a half-full Las Vegas Ballpark for the home opener Thursday. Team owner Don Logan said while that is good for the business side, it's never been about business.
"This is about doing the right thing," Logan said. "It's about keeping people safe. It's about respecting what everybody's been through. Sports are a release from reality a little bit."
The team will be doing their part to keep people safe with hand sanitizing stations set up around the concourse, limited concessions, and mandatory face coverings. As for keeping the players safe, the season will be played in a modified bubble, with limited travel and strict protocols.
"It's going to be like an alternate site field, kind of hotel/ballpark/hotel. It's not as much being able to go explore the cities or try out restaurants or go to attractions like you would've been able to in the past," said Parker Dunshee, a pitcher for the Aviators.
But after the past year, getting the chance to play is what matters most.
"We're starting a season that means something in two days and that means a lot. It means a lot to the coaches, it means a lot to the players. It means a lot to the front office and the fans of Las Vegas," said Riordan. "And I think it's not lost on anybody."
As for the fans, Dunshee said all they have to do is show up.
"Our end of the bargain is to put a good product out there and play hard every night and they know that we're going to do our best to bring the Aviators wins and we know they'll be there to support us as they've shown in the past," said Dunshee.
The team will begin the season with a six-game home stay against the Sacramento Rivercats before several road trips. They won't return to Las Vegas until early June.