Opening day amid virus: Masks, empty parks, social justice

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New York Yankees' Clint Frazier, left, watches his two-run home run against the New York Mets during the fourth inning of a baseball spring training game Saturday, July 18, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Opening day, at last.

A baseball season that was on the brink before it ever began because of the virus outbreak is set to start Thursday night when excitable Max Scherzer and the World Series champion Washington Nationals host prized ace Gerrit Cole and the New York Yankees.

When it does get underway — the DC forecast calls for thunderstorms, the latest rocky inning in this what-can-go-wrong game — it’ll mark the most bizarre year in the history of Major League Baseball.

A 60-game season, stars opting out. Ballparks without fans, players wearing masks. Piped-in sound effects, cardboard cutouts for spectators. Spray-painted ads on the mound, pitchers with personal rosin bags.

And a rack of strange rules. DHs in the National League, well, OK. An automatic runner on second to start the 10th inning? C’mon, now.

“Gosh, it’s going to be fun,” Cole said. “It’s going to have fake crowd noise, and going to be 2020 coronavirus baseball.”

Plus, a poignant reminder of the world we live in. A Black Lives Matter stencil can be put on mounds throughout the majors during the opening weekend.

And still there's a team that doesn't know where it’s going to play — barred from Toronto because of health concerns, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Blue Jays had hoped to roost in Pittsburgh or Baltimore or Buffalo or somewhere else.