COVID-19 breaks fan's 21-season home opener streak, but not her spirit

Billie Jo Bell is batting 1.000 when it comes to Rays home openers. Since the franchise's first game in 1998, she has attended 21 out of 21.

Her streak will end Friday.

"When you walk in, you can just smell baseball, as soon as you walk in the door, it's, oh my gosh, it is here!" Bell described to FOX 13.

She already found masks with Rays logos, just in case fans were allowed in. But the pile of tickets she has as part of her season ticket package will go unused.

"This year was almost devastating because it is a national holiday that I missed, that everybody missed."

As someone who made it to 40 games last year, and once made it to all 81 in a season, she laughs at the idea that TV is a suitable replacement.

That's especially true because her four seats are in the third row, right behind the Rays dugout.

"We [will be] there in spirit," she said, adding that she sent a video of herself cheering on her team, as did hundreds of fans, at the Rays' request.

Those videos will be played during games to remind players fans have their backs.

As the strangest baseball season of all time gets set to start, Bell wonders what else is in store, especially with the memories of last year's playoff run still fresh.

What if it happens again?

"That would be another strange thing," she said. "The playoffs, the World Series, without fans? They will have to let us be there."

Bell will still make it to the stadium. She plans to tailgate in the parking lot before the game, even though she won't be allowed in.