Few fans, masked umps, muted celebrations for World Series

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Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash, center with face mask down, watchers over a practice at Globe Life Field as the team prepares for the baseball World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

ARLINGTON, Texas – A World Series like no other opens Tuesday night with Clayton Kershaw’s Los Angeles Dodgers pursuing redemption, Kevin Kiermaier’s Tampa Bay Rays seeking acclaim and Major League Baseball relieved just to reach the championship of the pandemic-delayed season.

Buzz figures to be dampened, with attendance down to about 11,000 in the smallest crowd for a Series game since roughly 1909.

The entire Series will be played on artificial turf for the first time since 1993, at new $1.2 billion Globe Life Field, home of a Texas Rangers team eliminated on Sept. 20. Traditional postgame victory celebrations are barred. But surroundings are largely irrelevant to the favored Dodgers and under-the-radar Rays.

Los Angeles, baseball’s biggest spender, is back in the Series for the third time in four years as it seeks its first title since 1988.

Plate umpire Laz Diaz will be masked — along with the rest of the crew.

“I don’t know if you watched Game 7 last night but it sure felt like postseason to me,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said Monday, after the Dodgers rallied to beat Atlanta 4-3 at Globe Life for the NL pennant. “The back and forth, the momentum shifts, big plays, big swings, big pitches — that was as much of a playoff feel as I’ve ever experienced.”

Tampa Bay, among the major leagues’ poorest draws and lowest-salaried rosters, made it this far only once before and lost to Philadelphia in 2008. Perennially unable to get a new ballpark built, the Rays have said they are exploring splitting future seasons between St. Petersburg, Florida, and Montreal.

While the Rays beat Houston for the AL pennant on Saturday night in San Diego, they had to wait until Monday to travel, allowing the Braves to vacate space in the Dallas at Las Colinas - Four Seasons, where the Dodgers have been bivouacked since before the Division Series started Oct. 6. Los Angeles had an optional early afternoon workout with the stadium roof closed, and the Rays had a full practice in the evening under autumn twilight.