Major League Baseball is getting ready to come back for the shortened 2020 season. While all the details and scheduling haven’t been worked out, published reports indicate players will start reporting for “spring training” this week, and the season will likely start July 23 or July 24.
CBS Sports is reporting the season opener will be played July 23 and will feature the World Series Champions Washington Nationals against the New York Yankees.
NBC Sports reports that, while no specific schedules have been published, it looks like teams will be playing mostly teams in their own divisions and inter-league games against teams from the corresponding division in the other league. There will be no double-headers scheduled in order to limit the amount of time teams and staff will need to be at the ballparks.
For the Arizona Diamondbacks, this would mean they’d play their National League West rivals, the Colorado Rockies, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants. The American League West consists of the Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers.
ESPN noted MLB is facing tremendous challenges in playing during a pandemic like the coronavirus. They said on their website the United States had “botched” its response to the pandemic. The numbers in this country have been accelerating with more and more new cases being reported. ESPN noted many ballplayers live in states like California, Texas, Arizona and Florida, all of which have been seeing dramatic increases in the number of coronavirus cases.
In addition to the shortened season, baseball has had to make some serious adjustments to play around the pandemic.
The most noticeable of the coronavirus adjustments will be the absence of fans in the stands. One of the points of contention between the players and owners was the dramatic loss of revenue from having no fans in the stands, which means no revenue from ticket sales, parking or concessions.
A long list of the new rules established because of the coronavirus pandemic can be found at the website of NBC Sports. Among other things, social distancing will be practiced, with lockers at least six feet apart. Players who aren’t on the field will be at least six feet apart sitting in the dugout or the stands. Players are also discouraged from taking showers at the ballpark, although they will be allowed.
There will be no spitting. Sunflower seeds and smokeless tobacco are prohibited, although chewing gum will be allowed. Aside from contact that is necessary in the game, like tags, player contact is prohibited. There will be no fist-bumps, belly-bumps, high-fives or hugs.
There are also new rules regarding equipment. Players who are at bat, in the on-deck circle, or on base when an inning ends will now have to return to the dugout to get their equipment like sunglasses and gloves. Previously, they could have someone bring the equipment out to them.
Hitters will now have to bring their own pine tar rags and “donuts” to and from the on-deck circle. Pitchers will have to use their own resin bags on the mound and their own, personal baseballs for bullpen sessions. Balls used in batting practice will need to be cleaned and sanitized and won’t be reused for five days.
There will be no bat boys or girls and no ball boys or girls.
Media will be allowed into the ballparks, but they will have minimum contact with players. Press conferences and interviews will be conducted on-line via Zoom and other meeting platforms. Visiting television and radio broadcast announcers and crews will not be permitted. The play-by-play from the home team will be broadcast to the visiting team’s market, with announcers expected to be as objective as possible.
There are protocols and procedures being put in place if a player or staff member tests positive for the coronavirus.
ESPN noted the season could still be derailed. New lockdown and ‘stay-at-home’ orders might make it impossible for teams to play their full schedules. A statewide order in California, for example, would mean five teams would need to find alternative sites to play.
When Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey lifted the state’s ‘stay-at-home’ order May 15, it allowed for the return of professional sports if there were no fans in the audience. It was thought at the time the D-Backs might find themselves with company at Chase Field due to coronavirus restrictions in other cities and states.