As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Major League Baseball is into its second week of what would have been the 2020 season. When Opening Day, originally scheduled for March 26, will take place remains unclear.
MLB initially delayed the start of the season by two weeks. Then, in accordance with a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that gatherings of 50 or more people not be held until May 10 at the earliest, Opening Day was indefinitely pushed back.
Multiple reports have indicated a start in June is likely, though some within MLB are said to have additionally mulled staging Opening Day on July 4. More recently, however, a plan to possibly begin the season in Arizona — utilizing Spring Training facilities and without fans in attendance — has come to the forefront.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the proposal would have the 2020 MLB season possibly begin during May and it’s one that is supported by health officials:
Major League Baseball and its players are increasingly focused on a plan that could allow them to start the season as early as May and has the support of high-ranking federal public health officials who believe the league can safely operate amid the coronavirus pandemic, sources told ESPN.
Though the plan has a number of potential stumbling blocks, it has emerged above other options as the likeliest to work and has been embraced by MLB and MLB Players Association leadership, who are buoyed by the possibility of baseball’s return and the backing of federal officials, sources said.
The plan, sources said, would dictate all 30 teams play games at stadiums with no fans in the greater Phoenix area, including the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field, 10 spring training facilities and perhaps other nearby fields. Players, coaching staffs and other essential personnel would be sequestered at local hotels, where they would live in relative isolation, and travel only to the stadium and back, sources said. Federal officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Health have been supportive of a plan that would adhere to strict isolation, promote social distancing and allow MLB to become the first professional sport to return.
Given the CDC’s suggestion on mass gatherings and the need for a second Spring Training — which presumably will run at least two weeks — MLB would be looking at an Opening Day in late May or early June.
However it were to ultimately shake out, games resuming would be a significant boon for the sport, economy and society as a whole. A start in May or June, coupled with the likelihood of doubleheaders being a regular part of the schedule, would in theory allow MLB to get close to playing a 162-game season.
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