COVID-19 may have stolen months of watching baseball from Marisela Weaver.
But it has not dampened her love for the game, which returned to Fort Bend County over the weekend.
“I was looking forward to this two weeks ago,” she said Friday night at Constellation Field, where the Sugar Land Skeeters debuted their Constellation Energy League.
Weaver and her husband, Gregg, were among many eager baseball fans who made their way out to the Sugar Land ballaprk for the opening weekend of the Constellation Energy League, which plans to play a total of 56 games among four professional teams through Aug. 30.
Sugar Land announced its break from the independent Atlantic League in order to host the four-team professional league earlier this year. The new league’s Opening Day was originally slated for July 3, but was delayed a week due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19 in the Houston region.
Friday’s inaugural game was between the Skeeters and Eastern Reyes del Tigres.
“We’re ready to play a little baseball,” Sugar Land Mayor Joe Zimmerman said.
The Weavers have been frequent visitors to Constellation Field during previous Skeeters seasons, to watch both the local minor league team and the fireworks show following each Friday home game. They’ve also been consistent attendees of concerts hosted at the venue since it was built for the Skeeters in 2012. They live less than 1 mile away.
“We love the feeling that we can walk here and spend the afternoon – we love baseball, we love the concerts and we love the fireworks,” Marisela said. “It feels like a small-town environment, and we just love it.”
Much like the rest of the county, however, the couple has had many normal activities restricted or shut down over the last several months as the region deals with COVID-19, the contagious disease caused by the new coronavirus strain. Officials have reported 5,284 cases of COVID-19 among county residents as of Wednesday. There have been at least 67 deaths resulting from the virus, while 1,915 people have recovered, according to the county.
And for the Weavers, the loss of potential outings left a void they’ve had some trouble filling.
“We really look forward to (the season) because we come to so many games. It feels boring not being about to count on going out to several games a month,” Gregg Weaver said. “What are you going to do when so many things are not open?”
The same could be said for fellow Sugar Land resident Cole Woods, who worked at Constellation Field in high school just a few years ago. And even since graduation, he said he manages to catch a few games each year – at least until COVID-19 struck the region and forced the Skeeters to delay their opening day by about three months.
It’s not just the baseball Woods has missed, with the Atlantic League’s season typically beginning in April. More than that, he said, he longed for the feeling of kicking back and taking a load off in a fun atmosphere like Constellation Field – which has attractions beyond the playing field.
“Nothing beats being at a game or the smell of the game and stadium. There’s a lot of baseball that you can’t see through the TV,” he said. “I enjoy getting a beer, sitting with some friends and watching a game. I don’t really care who’s playing, as long as there’s a team I can support.”
However, both the Weavers and Wood say they understand the gravity of the situation with regard to COVID-19.
“I think a lot of people have been extremely anxious and cautious during COVID. They’re afraid of it and nervous, but I’m being safe, wearing a mask and socially distancing,” Wood said. “I’m just glad to be watching baseball again.”
The state of Texas permits gatherings up to 50 percent of a sports venue’s capacity. According to the Skeeters, there will be approximately 1,800 seats available for any given game, with seats assigned based on best available in accordance with federal and state guidelines regarding the spread of COVID-19.
Each fan is having their temperature taken prior to entering the ballpark, while social distancing between non-family members is being enforced. All those in the ballpark are also required to wear masks except when in their seats.
“It’s been difficult, because we’re concerned about others, and you don’t want to be part of the problem – you want to be part of the solution,” Marisela Weaver said. “So even though I want to go out and enjoy myself, I try to think about the whole community. We’re all in this together.”
Seven games will be played at Constellation Field each week for a total of 28 games per team. According to the Skeeters, single games are anticipated to be played on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, with doubleheaders scheduled most Saturdays and Sundays.
So while she may be forced to do so under a mask for the time being, Marisela now has a big reason to smile once again.
“It’s too bad you don’t see it (under my mask),” she said. “I’m just so excited.”