When Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred implemented an abbreviated 60-game schedule for the 2020 season, the expectation was that a handful of players would opt out due to concerns over the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
That has indeed played out, with David Price informing the Los Angeles Dodgers he will sit out the season. San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey also informed his club that he will not play this year out of the best interest for his family.
Individuals considered high risk for severe illness were also given the opportunity to opt out without forfeiting their salary. Several umpires, primarily due to their older age, recently informed the league they would not work this year.
However, those that committed to fulfilling their duties will be heavily protected. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, home-plate umpires are expected to wear a shield under their masks this season, which should help reduce potential spreading of the virus:
Major League Baseball is planning for plate umpires to wear a similar shield under their masks, a development that could alleviate a growing concern among players, managers and executives. The shields are in the final stages of testing to ensure they are shatter-proof and should be ready by the time the season opens a week from Thursday, sources said.
The league recommends but does not require face coverings for umpires.
It is encouraging that home-plate umpires will take extra precaution this season. The addition of a shield under their masks can only help, given how close they stand next to catchers and batters.
Dave Roberts open to umpires potentially flying on chartered flights with teams
In response to reports that MLB is considering having umpire crews traveling on team flights, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts revealed he would be open to the possibility.
“I think it just speaks to things being a lot different,” Roberts said. “It might happen; I think it’s a last resort type thing.
“I think to the geographic, having people travel across time zones as little as possible, to keep those guys away from commercial guys, it might call for umpires to travel with certain teams on a private flight.
“I think for us, whatever is best for them, their health, our health, to protect the game, it makes sense and is fine.”
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