Marcie Kren has served as a cashier for Milwaukee Brewers baseball games for more than 20 years, first at Milwaukee County Stadium and then at Miller Park.
This season, she’ll be watching games on television instead of carrying out her job duties at the ballpark because of the ongoing coranvirus pandemic.
“I miss coming to work with my co-workers. You just look forward to being here,” Kren said as she stood outside of Miller Park Tuesday morning. “Opening Day comes, and you are just so excited to see friends you haven’t seen in six months.”
With games being played in empty stadiums, at least at the start of the season and seemingly likely for the entire schedule, only a few game-day employees will be needed for the Brewers home opener at Miller Park on July 31 against the St. Louis Cardinals. Milwaukee opens the regular season at Wrigley Field on Friday night against the Chicago Cubs after a nearly four-month delay due to the pandemic.
Normally, Kren would be one of about 1,000 game-day workers at Miller Park during the season.
“We will have some game-day employees but a very small amount, inside and outside the ballpark,” Brewers Senior Vice President of Stadium Operations Steve Ethier said.
Jerry Mittelsteadt, an usher supervisor and long-time employee at Miller Park, has missed the interaction with fans.
“I particularly miss the kids,” he said.
Recently, Mittelsteadt has been working at the team store at Miller Park and he has repeatedly heard from fans about how much they are itching to get back to the stadium to see baseball games in person.
Mittelsteadt said it’s difficult to comprehend an Opening Day in Milwaukee without fans.
“There is no comparison to Opening Day on a regular season,” he said. “I always say there’s Opening Day and then there’s the rest of the season.”
Mittelsteadt continues to hear from laid-off employees who want to know if there’s any chance they will be called back to work this season.
“They want to be back here,” he said. “They love working here with our staff.”
Ethier hasn’t given up hope that fans will be allowed into Miller Park at some point this season, but for now games will be played without them.
“We know from Major League Baseball that for at least the first two weeks of the season we will not have fans in the ballpark. But after that it’s up for discussion,” he said.
Ethier said the Brewers are developing plans with food and beverage vendors should some games later in the season be played with fans in the stands.
Other factors that would need to be considered include the face mask ordinance currently in place for the city of Milwaukee.
Plans also call for two-way traffic on the concourses at Miller Park and socially distant seating arrangements that likely would mean keeping every other row empty, Ethier said.
Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik warned of the dangers of mass gatherings for sporting events in a virtual session with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, given the rising coronavirus trends locally and nationwide.
“Our concern is about fans. We know that being in an arena or a sporting setting can be an exposure risk. Where we are seeing the trend right now in the country, having events with fans is just not wise right now.”
Meanwhile, the Brewers continue to prepare for the most unusual of opening days by taking steps aimed at keeping players and staff safe and protected from COVID-19.
“We’ve expanded the clubhouse up onto what would normally be one of the concourses and we’ve expanded the dugouts and bullpens,” Ethier said. “We are all wearing masks inside. We are cleaning and sanitizing.”
In-game entertainment will feature piped-in fan noise to make up for the lack of people in the stadium, he added.
Preparations for Opening Day also include getting the playing field in tip-top condition. Having training camp at Miller Park that past few weeks has led to wear and tear on the grass field, Ethier said.
“The repetitive things with the drills that you run is certainly taking its toll on parts of the playing field,” he said.
The condition of the field will be addressed over the next week when the Brewers are playing on the road, Ethier said.