As Major League Baseball has twice delayed the start of the 2020 season, it has indicated when Opening Day will be held — and a second Spring Training for that matter — hinge on guidance and receiving clearance from public health officials amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
At minimum, neither of there does not figure to be a concentration of baseball-related activities until May 10 at the earliest, due to a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that mass gatherings of at least 50 people not be held through that date.
Thus, MLB is facing a potential start at some point in June or possibly July. Players have estimated a second Spring Training of two or three weeks would be required before rolling into the regular season.
If or when 2020 Opening Day does arrive, MLB reportedly is considering a scenario in which players and other personnel would be quarantined at Spring Training facilities in Florida and/or Arizona, as games would begin without fans in attendance, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic:
As two other prominent sports leagues consider quarantining teams and playing in a centralized location without fans, Major League Baseball is entertaining a similar idea and numerous other options as it ponders ways to conduct the 2020 season.
MLB is prioritizing public health as it examines all possibilities, sources say. The season, at least initially, could be played in Florida or more likely Arizona, where spring training parks are more concentrated. But the logistics of quarantining 30 teams in one area would be extremely complex and potentially controversial, sources say, requiring local, state and federal government cooperation and resources that might be necessary to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
While going to that length would in theory be a preventative measure, it also would present challenges in keeping everyone healthy and could lend to a situation where that backfires, as one MLB official noted:
To play under quarantine, the sport would need to protect the health not only of players and other club personnel, but also umpires and those producing the television broadcasts, plus hotel workers, bus drivers and anyone else involved with the players and games.
“Your margin of error is so small,” one baseball official said.
For instance, if a player, stadium or hotel employee were to unknowingly contract the virus, the close proximity of the parties could lead to it easily spreading. That would force MLB into a second shutdown and potentially throw the entire season into jeopardy.
A more likely scenario for the league may be taking a cautious and patient approach with the hope MLB stadiums could serve as backdrops for regular-season games — even if it amounts to a Fourth of July Opening Day and still without fans being permitted.
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