by Eric Peterson, Daily Herald
After a year's hiatus due to the pandemic, the Schaumburg Boomers baseball team has announced its 2021 return with a full 96-game schedule featuring home games at the newly re-christened Wintrust Field.
Probably the biggest adjustment to the schedule from past seasons is starting a week later in May and ending a week later in September, Boomers Vice President and General Manager Michael Larson said.
Greater know-how in keeping fans and players safe in the outdoor venue, and stronger confidence in the ability to cross the border for games with the Frontier League's Canadians teams, are major factors in playing a full schedule, he added.
"It's a little more predictable than what we were facing 12 months ago," Larson said. "It's a big step in the right direction."
The Chicago Dogs baseball team in Rosemont also announced its 2021 schedule last week. The team played a reduced schedule in 2020, along with just half the teams in its league, the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.
The Boomers opted against such compromises last year.
"I think we made the right decision in 2020," Larson said.
New protocols will include spacing between available seats, a requirement that fans wear a mask when not seated, and the introduction of a mobile app that will allow fans to have food and drinks delivered to them rather than visiting concession stands.
Concession stand windows will still be open, but Larson expects more than half of fans will take advantage of the mobile app.
With Wintrust Field being the largest stadium in the Frontier League, the reduced capacity of the ballpark will probably not be noticed during typical weeknight games, but likely will be during the more popular days such as the Fourth of July and Star Wars Night, Larson said.
Though the Boomers did not play in 2020, management was honing its skills in dealing with the pandemic by keeping the Chicago White Sox taxi squad safe during its training at the stadium, and responsibly hosting socially distanced concerts in the parking lot.
For its efforts in keeping the stadium a hub of entertainment during the pandemic, the team was recognized as the Schaumburg Business Association's 2020 Business of the Year.
Even though baseball -- and fans -- will be keeping Wintrust Field a bit busier this summer, the potential for further concerts will be evaluated, Larson said.
He also emphasized that the current protocols are based on the state of the pandemic and could be adapted to reflect changes before and during the season. The distribution of vaccines is anticipated to create improvements during the year.
Schaumburg Mayor Tom Dailly sees the return of the Boomers and the widening availability of vaccines as good signs for the community's gradual emergence from the pandemic.
"Everything is moving in the right direction for us to have a good summer," he said. "I'm excited and hopeful at the same time."
Dailly said he hopes lessons learned from the Boomers can be applied to the village's planning of its Summer Breeze concerts and the eventual reopening of the Al Larson Prairie Center for the Arts.