Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs will distribute $1.5m (£1.1m/€1.3m) worth of free tickets to frontline and essential workers for the 2021 season.

The 30 teams will independently select the specific ticket recipients, seat locations, game dates, and allotments as part of the programme.

The MLB said clubs may recognise these local heroes during games they attend.

Clubs will donate tickets to individuals from groups including health care personnel, grocery store, food service and delivery workers, first responders, educational staff, public transit workers, food and agricultural workers and construction and manufacturing workers.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said: “We are delighted to have this special opportunity to recognise frontline and essential personnel as we welcome back fans to our ballparks. These heroes helped keep us safe and provided crucial services throughout this challenging year. We are grateful for all of them and are honoured that they will be at our games all season long.”

The 2021 MLB campaign, which kicks off today, is set to follow the traditional season schedule after no regular-season games were held with fans during the 2020 season due to COVID-19 restrictions.

This season, teams are opening stadiums at varying capacities, with the Texas Rangers being the only club that plans on playing in front of a full-capacity crowd, with the next highest capacity limit at 50 per cent.

Crowd capacities in MLB will range from the Rangers’ 100 per cent to 12 per cent, which is the limit imposed by the Washington Nationals and the Boston Red Sox. A number of teams have signalled their intention to increase capacity limits over the summer if COVID-19 cases fall and the vaccination roll-out continues.