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Rogue Valley sports bars ready with return of Major League Baseball

Opening Day for Major League Baseball came four months late Thursday, and some Southern Oregon residents were waiting to regain some sense of normalcy with the first pitch at local bars and restaurants.

Dylan Tubb, a New York Yankees fan from Central Point, was at RAM Restaurant and Brewery to catch the first game of the delayed season, as the Yankees faced the defending champion Washington Nationals.

Tubb says he grew up watching baseball and other games on TV.

“Sports are a big thing for me,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a drought in live sporting events that began in March, when baseball season was first delayed in the middle of spring training. Instead of the usual 162-game season, teams will play 60 over the course of the next 10 weeks.

Tubb said he was disappointed when the season was postponed, but hopes games can go on as scheduled now.

“I would like to go to a pro game one of these days,” he said.

Chris Malandrini, another patron from the Applegate, said big sporting events offer people a nice reprieve during the COVID-19 era.

“People are kind of yearning for that right now,” he said.

While Malandrini loves watching sports just for the slice of normalcy, he thinks these events can also provide opportunities for people to find common ground during polarizing times.

“It’s a great moment for self-reflection,” he said.

The pandemic has forced the MLB to make drastic changes for the season to resume and keep the players safe. Spitting, for example, is no longer permitted — but Thursday’s games between the Nationals and Yankees, and the San Francisco Giants against the Los Angeles Dodgers otherwise played out as they would without a pandemic, apart from the empty stadiums.

So without the ability to attend a game in person, Southern Oregon turned to the next best place — sports bars.

Melissa Nielson, a bartender at RAM, said before the pandemic, sporting events would be a big draw for patrons. She acknowledged things had been quieter since COVID-19, but felt positive about the game.

“Hopefully it’ll bring some people in,” she said.

Reach reporting intern Hans Boyle at 971-201-0114 or hboyle@rosebudmeida.com.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneStacey Boughton pours a beer for a customer Thursday afternoon at RAM Restaurant & Brewery in Medford.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneDylan Tubb talks about wanting to see a MLB game live on day at RAM Restaurant & Brewery in Medford.