Major League Baseball is hoping that an 82-game season can begin around the first weekend of July, with two or three weeks of “Spring Training 2.0” before that.
Beyond the financial issues that MLB players and owners are still discussing, there are many health topics that need to be addressed before baseball can be played safely with the health of anyone needed to put on a baseball game considered paramount.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has posted an article Saturday with details of a 67-page proposal made to players regarding safety and health. Among things that will have to happen:
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.
Those are just a few of the items listed in Rosenthal’s article, which is divided into several sections covering testing, spring training, facility management, on-field operations and travel. It’s surprising to learn how many people might be involved in putting on a baseball game even with no fans:
Facilities will be restricted to limited groups of essential personnel:
—Players and other on-field personnel.
—Other essential personnel who need close proximity to on-field personnel. This group includes clubhouse staff, ownership representatives, front-office employees, public-relations staff and translators.
—Individuals who perform essential event services but do not require close contact with players and other on-field personnel. This group includes cleaning service providers, broadcast personnel, groundskeepers, transportation providers – up to 150 at any given time.
Of course, cleaning services wouldn’t be needed in most of the fan seating area if there are no fans, but cleaning and sanitizing would be even more important than usual in areas players inhabit. One of the other protocols involves having player lockers at least six feet apart, and if that’s not possible:
clubs should erect temporary clubhouse or locker facilities in unused stadium space, preferably outdoors or in areas with increased ventilation.
There’s not too much “unused stadium space” at Wrigley Field with its small footprint, even with the expanded clubhouse that opened in 2016. Rosenthal also reports that “showering will be discouraged at club facilities,” which means players might have to go home in uniform before they can shower.
Even with the teams supposedly playing only within their own divisional construct (East vs. East, Central vs. Central, West vs. West), there will still have to be a significant amount of travel involved. Here are some of the proposed protocols for players while traveling:
*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.
*On the road, the players should essentially isolate at hotels, with precautions such as a prohibition on buffet-style meals in place. Luggage will be sent directly to players’ rooms to avoid extra touchpoints, and players will not need to return a key or visit the front desk upon check out. Meal money should be delivered to players in a form other than cash.
This will not be easy on players, as most players enjoy going out while they are on the road. They’ll simply have to adjust to a different lifestyle. Lots of playing of video games in hotel rooms would seem to be on the agenda. Rosenthal also reports that services like Lyft and Uber for players would be discouraged and that whenever possible, “teams are to fly into smaller airports. The league’s desire is for airlines to assign fixed airline crews rather than rotate crews in and out.” I wonder if this would mean teams flying to Chicago would fly into Midway Airport instead of O’Hare.
The entire article is worth reading. They don’t pay me to say this, but things like this are worth a subscription to The Athletic. It’s only a few dollars a month and they’ve got discount deals out there right now that are easy to find on social media.
Lastly, Rosenthal’s article points out how difficult it might be to arrange an MLB season for 2020. It’s almost as if they have to create the sport, many of its rules and an entire collective-bargaining agreement from scratch.
I wish them luck and hope we can have baseball this year — as long as it’s safe for everyone involved.