NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Baseball fans returned to Citi Field on Thursday for the first time since 2019 for the Mets home opener against Miami.

COVID protocols were in place and capacity was capped at 20%, or just under 9,000 fans, for the game which was sold out, CBS2’s Steve Overmyer reported.

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In order to enter the ballpark this season, fans must display proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test from within three days. On Thursday, the team offered immediate testing for $30 to those who needed one.

This year, paper tickets are not accepted, only digital tickets via the MLB Ballpark app. Everyone older than two must wear a mask at all times, unless they’re eating.

“I didn’t know how much I missed it until I wasn’t there,” one fan said before the game.

“You can’t see, but I’m smiling from ear to ear,” said another.

“This place, to me, is extremely special,” said Mets first baseman Pete Alonso. “I love playing in front of Mets fans, and we have such an incredible fan base and I know they’re going to make a lot of noise today.”

From the field level to the top of the ballpark, fans of all ages were eager to celebrate a Mets win.

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“It’s definitely one of the most fun days I’ve ever had… because I love watching the Mets and I love going with my family,” said Brandon Seeman, 10.

“That ‘Let’s Go Mets’ chant earlier had me emotional… It’s been a year since we’ve been able to attend games and watch teams play. So, it’s definitely more special, makes you more grateful,” said another fan.

It was a milestone game, not just because it’s the home opener.

“I think it’s the comradery… It’s like, ‘Yo, we get another day to do this, we haven’t done this in so long.’ It’s nice to get a day during the week, beautiful weather, and just enjoy a baseball game,” said Joe Pip from Brooklyn.

Even Mr. Met, socially distanced and masked up, embraced the new protocols.

“… to be able to watch baseball again, I’d wear the mask for eight hours if I have to,” said Jonathan Vasquez.

“There’s so many people that we love that we haven’t gotten to see in a year. So it’s exciting just to be around everybody and be around the excitement and the energy again,” another fan said.

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Capacity might’ve been limited, but the excitement level was 100.

Steve Overmyer