Braves welcome full crowd for first time since COVID-19 pandemic; other metro teams soon to follow

ATLANTA — Friday night brought something we haven’t seen in metro Atlanta in a long time — a nearly full-capacity crowd cheering on one of our sports teams.

Some 38,952 fans packed into Truist Park to cheer on the Braves. For the first time, the team allowed a full-capacity crowd into the stadium. It wasn’t quite a sellout, but it was pretty close.

Channel 2′s Justin Wilfon spoke to fans at the ballpark who said they were ready for some normalcy and ready to cheer on their Braves with other fans.

But some other fans and a top metro doctor told Wilfon that people still need to be cautious.

Michael Mills said he brought his mother to the game for Mother’s Day.

“I’m just ready to chop on my Braves. We’re covering with our masks. We’re going to social distance. We should be good to go,” Mills said. “I want to see my Bravos get a W on this full-capacity night.”

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But other fans told Wilfon they were heading into the big crowd reluctantly.

“What do you think? Is it too early?” Wilfon asked Ennis Antoine.

“Too early. I’m scared,” Antoine said. “I’m going to stay masked up, and I’m going to do my best to keep distanced from others.”

On Friday night, the Braves became only the third major league team to allow a full crowd.

“It’s difficult to say that’s a safe situation for people who are unvaccinated,” said Dr. Danny Branstetter, infectious disease specialist with Wellstar Health System.

He told Wilfon that sitting in a crowd is a much safer bet for those who are vaccinated.

“Certainly, vaccines provide some level of safety for us to do that. But if you’re going to be in large crowds, it’s still best to wear a mask and watch your distance,” Branstetter said.

The Braves said fans are still required to wear masks when they’re not eating or drinking. The team also offered free vaccinations at the game — and will again Saturday.

Cobb County’s health director, Dr. Janet Memark, sent Wilfon a statement saying, “If you plan on being in large crowds, get vaccinated.”

It’s something she believes will be a home run for Braves fans.

The Braves aren’t the only Atlanta team allowing full-capacity crowds. Atlanta United will welcome a full house during its home match against Montreal next Saturday.

For soccer, that’s about 42,000 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Hawks are going toward the playoffs. They will welcome 7,600 fans.

Atlanta Motor Speedway will be open for a full house during its NASCAR weekend in July.