If Major League Baseball starts the shortened 2020 season as scheduled next month, former A's slugger Mark McGwire wants to see players on all 30 teams with a new part of their uniform.
"I think the players should play with them on," McGwire said Monday on "Dodger Talk" on KLAC-AM. "You learn how to do it. They did it back in 1918 (during the flu pandemic), and not a lot of players got sick. A few of them did, but not a lot of them. Obviously, that was the flu. We're dealing with something a lot worse than the flu."
MLB's season was delayed and shortened due to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with July 23 and 24 targeted as Opening Day for the now-60-game season. Non-playing staff will be required to wear masks in the dugout and in the bullpen, but players will not.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends everyone who is at least 2 years old wear a mask in public and when near people who don't live in the same household, "especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain." Research indicates that respiratory droplets play a big role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19, and that cloth face coverings reduce the spread of those droplets when people are within six feet of one another. Infield bases are 90 feet apart, but batters in the box and on-base would easily be within six feet of opposing players.
Exercise often causes higher rates of breathing, potentially increasing the spread of respiratory droplets. Wearing a mask while exercising can cause greater difficulty breathing or even lightheadedness, but exercise science experts told The New York Times earlier this month that there are breathable models that would help limit transmission.
South Korea's KBO, among the first professional team sports leagues in the world to start or resume its seasons amid the pandemic, did not mandate players wear masks when the season started in May. The country's coronavirus response set an example for the rest of the world, with just 316 confirmed new cases in the last seven days.
Over that same time, the United States has had over 255,000, with spikes in multiple states leading to questions whether or not MLB and other leagues can safely start or resume their seasons. People around the country question -- or actively push back on -- local governments and businesses mandating the wearing of masks, and McGwire said he envisioned a similar dynamic playing out in clubhouses.
"I just think it's going to be interesting to see because you know you're gonna have those players walking in the clubhouse not wearing a mask," McGwire explained, "and then you're gonna have these players be yelling at 'em going, 'Wait a minute, put your mask on,' just like you're seeing right now out in public. People are [going], 'What do you mean? I don't need to wear a mask. Shoot, our President doesn't wear a mask. I don't need to wear it.' "