In addition to Major League Baseball and the Players Association needing to resolve a disagreement over the economic plan for a potential 2020 regular season, the two sides additionally are looking to come to an agreement on coronavirus (COVID-19) testing and other safety protocols.
MLBPA executive director Tony Clark has previously made it clear players would not return to the field until sufficient testing was readily available and a vaccine was in place. Of those two requirements, the latter doesn’t figure to be easily obtained or in circulation until some time next year.
Meanwhile, MLB is said to have struck a deal with a Utah lab that will be able to satisfy the league’s demands for testing without placing a strain on public resources. In the days after team owners agreed to a proposal for 2020, it was presented to the union for the beginning of negotiations.
Also submitted was a detail plan to address safety, travel, coronavirus testing and other concerns. A copy of the document was obtained by Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic, and some of its highlights are included below:
No exchanges of lineup cards. New baseballs any time a ball is put in play and touched by multiple players. Players wearing masks except while on the field, standing six feet apart during the singing of the national anthem and God Bless America, sitting six feet apart in the dugout and, if necessary, even in the stands.
*Regular testing for all players, managers, coaches and umpires, plus a limited number of essential staff who come into close proximity with players.
*All players must undergo “Intake Screening” upon arriving at spring training. The screening will take place at multiple locations and at staggered times. It will consist of a temperature check with a contactless thermometer and body fluid and blood samples.
*Individuals who are tested must self-quarantine at his or her spring-training residency until the results of the testing are reported, likely within 24 to 48 hours. Any individual who tests positive is instructed to self-quarantine and gets treated accordingly.
*An individual with a temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, other symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or close contact with a confirmed case is subject to immediate rapid diagnostic test at location close to the club facility.
*Before entering a club facility, individuals will get their temperatures checked and complete a short symptom and exposure questionnaire.
*Limited to 50 players per club.
*Workouts staggered throughout the day to avoid overcrowding. When feasible, clubs should consider the use of another facility such as a nearby college or minor-league stadium to conduct workouts or games on a split-squad basis.
*Reporting dates staggered, with camp divided into three phases.
*Facilities will be restricted to limited groups of essential personnel.
*Meetings will take place virtually when possible. If they take place in-person, they should preferably be outdoors with participants sitting apart from each other and wearing face coverings when possible.
*Lockers should be six feet apart. If not possible, clubs should erect temporary clubhouse or locker facilities in unused stadium space, preferably outdoors or in areas with increased ventilation.
*Showering will be discouraged at club facilities.
*Only necessary players will be in dugouts. Inactive players may sit in auxiliary seating areas, including adjacent in-stadium seating to maximize physical distancing.
*When the ball is out of play or in between pitches, fielders are encouraged to retreat several steps away from the baserunner.
*Non-playing personnel must wear masks at all times in dugout.
*While players will not be officially quarantined, members of the traveling party are not to leave the hotel unless they receive advance approval from team personnel. The only people permitted to visit players’ rooms are immediate family members. Socializing with other family members or friends is discouraged, but not entirely prohibited.
While MLB has outlined seemingly effective measures to take, carrying each of those out figures to be challenging. Particularly with some of the proposed changes with the clubhouse and meetings.
The league and MLBPA figure to have an estimated two weeks to find common ground if they are to hold Opening Day by early July, which would better allow for roughly half a season to be played this year.
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