Several different plans for having a 2020 Major League Baseball season have been discussed by owners and players. Among them is one to play in teams’ home ballparks without fans, which I detailed here Wednesday.
Now, we learn that these empty ballparks could be used for a “spring training” resumption, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today:
The move would be driven by an interest in saving time and money, with training camps expected to last three weeks before the start of the truncated regular season.
Training in their home ballparks would largely eliminate the need for hotel rooms and per diem for the players during Spring Training 2.0. It would also save time in this shortened season, with everyone in place for the start of the regular season instead of traveling back from spring training sites.
The biggest disadvantage, the executives said, would be having the use of only one field instead of the usual six at their spring training sites. Teams would also be mostly limited to playing intrasquad games during the three weeks, particularly those located outside of two-team cities. Teams in certain regions could also face weather uncertainty.
While there would be logistical advantages to doing this sort of thing, as noted above by Nightengale, it would also create other disadvantages beyond the ones noted in his article. For example, at Wrigley Field, besides the pitcher’s mound on the main field, there would only be four other mounds available for use for pitchers to throw — two in each bullpen. While there are batting cages, there aren’t nearly as many as there are in spring-training facilities.
Further, as I pointed out in my Wednesday article, having any baseball activity in Wrigley Field would likely bring people out into the streets surrounding the ballpark, hoping that they could just be close to anything Cubs. This is something that the city of Chicago clearly wouldn’t want, and I doubt they’d want to have the streets surrounding the ballpark closed down for any significant length of time.
For stadiums surrounded by seas of parking lots (Dodger Stadium is perhaps the best example of this), that’s not as much an issue. But ballparks like Fenway Park or downtown stadiums like Busch Stadium or Great American Ballpark could also draw crowds outside, just hoping to even hear the sounds of baseball.
Further, it’s not clear that gatherings of people even as small as a “spring training” for a baseball team will be permitted in many cities by early- to mid-June, which is likely when these “three weeks” of training sessions would be held if MLB wants to begin play sometime in early July. Besides players, staff and trainers would probably mean 100 or more people for these practice sessions.
I continue to believe that the “Arizona Bubble League” or the “Cactus/Grapefruit League” ideas are the best for having any sort of baseball season in 2020. Since things and events seem to be changing rapidly in the USA, MLB might want to revisit the “home park spring training” idea in a couple of weeks to see if it’s still workable. We all want to see baseball in 2020, but only if the safety and health of everyone involved can be assured.