MADISON (WKOW) -- The Madison Mallards played their first baseball game since August 2019 on Monday, after the pandemic forced the team to cancel its entire 2020 season. For fans, the return was a long-awaited homecoming.
"I feel like I'm back home again," fan Gary Shortreed said.
He was sitting in a section of the stadium just for people who are fully vaccinated. Though he has the extra protection from the vaccine, Shortreed said he felt some mixed emotions.
"It feels real good, but [it] feels really nervous, to be frankly honest with you," he said. "You don't know who is and who isn't [vaccinated]. It's trust, but we're all here to watch the ballgame, and we're having a good time."
Shortreed wasn't the only fan feeling that way.
"To be honest, it feels weird to be out without your mask," Alicia Reott said. "And it also feels really good."
She was at the game with her family, including her son, Chase. He said he really enjoyed being able to go to a game again.
"It's always fun to just watch the game, eat some food and hang out with your family," he said.
The Mallards' return also means host families are returning this year.
This will be the third season Carrie Biggin's family has had one of the Mallards players live with them for the summer.
"It's been a wonderful experience," she said. "We look forward to it every year."
Jordan Rose said hosting a player is like gaining a family member.
"I'm an only child, so I feel like I've kind of got an older brother, just to hang out and talk to," he said.
Shortreed said he thinks the success of Monday's game is a good sign for a return to normal activities this summer.
"Day by day, it's going to get stronger, and as long as things keep an even keel like it is, I think that we're going to have a great crowd out here," Shortreed said.
Reott, a nurse, said she was jointly optimistic and skeptical, but feels hopeful for the future, particularly because of the progress being made with vaccinations.
"Hopefully everybody thinks of each other and their neighbors," she said.
The stadium was at a reduced capacity Monday because of the Dane County emergency order. After the order expires Wednesday, the team says Warner Park will open to full capacity and will not require fans to wear masks.