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Major League Baseball Return Focusing on Health Protocols

Ross Everett
by in MLB on
  • The start of the 2020 Major League Baseball season has been postponed indefinitely due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
  • Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have been discussing scenarios for the return of the sport.
  • There are still many issues to be worked out including player salary and testing.

There’s at least some small signs of life in the sports world today as the UFC soldiers on with its events, the German Bundesliga soccer circuit has returned and NASCAR will be back in action later today. Major League Baseball had hoped to be one of the first sports back but from the looks of things they’re still a ways away from a return. The league and the MLB Players Association have been working out details for what will reportedly be an 80 game season but remain at odds on a number of issues. Additionally, they’re going to great lengths to protect the health and safety of their players, staff and general public.

According to the league’s return to play blueprint they’re hoping to process around 10,000 COVID-19 tests per week in addition to changing rules, reconfiguring stadiums and other steps to encourage ‘social distancing’. Even with all of the detail in their plans it is a ‘work in progress’ and a number of concerns remain unaddressed. These will likely be filled in as negotiations between MLB and the players’ union continue. Many of the specifics have been intimated at already in the media but end result will likely be a version of Major League Baseball that would be unrecognizable to purists.

One component that the MLB addressed early on was increasing the size of player rosters. Under the plan, teams can have 50 players on their roster though the expectation is that a smaller number will be active for each individual game. Players and other personnel not participating in the game would sit in the stands separated by at least 6 feet. The same distancing standards would apply to other elements of the pregame such as the National Anthem.

The gameplay of baseball will also see some modifications. Ubiquitous player behavior such as hugs and high fives will be prohibited and players will not be allowed to spit, or chew tobacco or sunflower seeds. Fielders will be ‘encouraged’ to retreat several steps away from the baserunner between pitches. First and third base coaches will not be allowed to interact with players, opponents or umpires. Balls will be thrown away after being touched by several players and throwing it around the infield ‘will be discouraged’. Players will be ‘discouraged’ from showering at the stadium and not allowed to take taxis or Uber on the road.

The document also goes into great detail over how players and personnel would be ‘classified’ for the purpose of health evaluations and how these screenings would be conducted. Players would have multiple daily temperature screenings with front office personnel and other staff receiving weekly tests. Players and staff family members would also be tested. Players that test positive will be quarantined and two negative tests and approval from medical personnel will be required before they can return.

Here’s what the overall tone of the league will be:

“MLB will not formally restrict the activities of Covered Individuals when they are away from work but will expect the members of each team to ensure that they all act responsibly. The careless actions of a single member of the team places the entire team (and their families) at risk, and teams should agree on their own off-field code of conduct for themselves and their family members to minimize the risk to the team.”

There’s still a lot to do in a short amount of time if MLB is to make a mid June training camp and a start to the season in July actually work. It wouldn’t take much disagreement between the league and the players’ union to push these dates back or scuttle the short term return of baseball altogether.

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