2021 MLB season kicking off Thursday; what you need to know

Riley Platt, Reporter

Spring is here, and that means one thing: baseball is back! While college baseball’s season has been ongoing, the sport’s upper echelon will be kicking off their 2021 season on Thursday, April 1. Here’s everything you need to know as the stars of the league get back into the swing of things.

Just months ago, Major League Baseball capped off what can only be described as its strangest season in recent memory. For an organization that has dealt with world wars and pandemics alike, COVID-19 was a challenge, but the season went on with relative success, with the Los Angeles Dodgers winning the World Series over the Tampa Bay Rays.

 Colorado Rockies left fielder Raimel Tapia walks to the clubhouse past the preparations on the surface to prepare Coors Field for the return of fans in the era of the coronavirus Wednesday, March 31, 2021, at the stadium in downtown Denver. A small number of fans were allowed to watch the Rockies go through a workout Wednesday before the team hosts the Los Angeles Dodgers in the squads’ season-opener Thursday, April 1. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) (AP)

A shortened season saw a regular-season schedule of 60 games in under 70 days, with games being held in empty ballparks, with the exception of a few postseason series. As the nation moves through the COVID-19 pandemic, many teams will be hosting fans this season, contrary to the 2020 effort. 

This season, operations will essentially resume to normal, with the standard 162-game schedule going back into effect. Spring Training has been ongoing since late February, but the real deal will be starting on Thursday with famed Opening Day festivities. There will be games to watch all day, with all 30 teams being in action. 

With both of the state’s clubs making the postseason, it was a very successful season for Florida in 2020. The Miami Marlins may have been swept in the National League Divisional Series, but this was the team’s first postseason appearance since 2003. The Tampa Bay area also saw a season full of achievement, with the Rays falling just two games short of the franchise’s first World Series title. With both teams having talented, young cores, the sky’s the limit for their potential this season.

As for the favorites to win it all, it’s always hard to pick against the defending champs. This year is no different, as the Dodgers look to build on their momentum. As per usual, the New York Yankees have loaded a roster of their own, but we’ve yet to see this group make it over the hump of the ALCS to get to the World Series in recent seasons. Talent doesn’t necessarily equal success, and perhaps the Yankees will prevail past their recent failures in 2021.

Another favorite of fans in the Jacksonville area is the Atlanta Braves, who fell short in the NLCS last year, losing to the Dodgers in a decisive game seven. It will be an arduous task to make it past the Dodgers, but it’s certainly possible with all the talent the Braves possess. Stars like Ronald Acuña Jr. and Freddie Freeman look to lead this club back to the promised land, with their last World Series title coming in 1995. 

Certainly, one of the hottest teams coming into the upcoming season has to be the San Diego Padres. After enduring hardship for so long, Padres fans have reason to cheer as the team has built something special in SoCal. Led by Fernando Tatís Jr., the team made big offseason moves to acquire talented pitchers Blake Snell and Yu Darvish. Having inked Tatis Jr. to a 14-year deal, the future is bright in San Diego. The main barrier to their success is the inner-division rival Dodgers, which is sure to produce some fun battles this year as the two duke it out for control of the NL West.

With a season as long as the MLB’s 162-game slate, the most well-built teams will rise to the top. However, there are still no guarantees as to who will run the league this year. It’s more likely that some teams will succeed more than others, but it will certainly be interesting to see who comes out on top in late fall.


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