California Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered a piece of good news for baseball on Monday.
“Pro sports, in that first week or so of June, without spectators, and (with) modifications and very prescriptive conditions, also can begin to move forward,” he said, “and a number of other sectors of our economy will open up, if we hold these trend lines the next number of weeks.”
Major League Baseball’s proposal to return this summer was always contingent upon the states’ reopening process. Commissioner Rob Manfred made that clear on CNN last week, saying the league's plans “are dependent on what the public health situation is and us reaching the conclusion that it’ll be safe for our players and other employees to come back to work.”
When the owners approved a proposal last week that targeted a July Opening Day, California had just begun to move into Stage 2 of Newsom’s stay-at-home order, gradually reopening low-risk workplaces. Five MLB teams were subject to Newsom’s order.
Newsom’s latest announcement, which was live-streamed to a broader audience from Napa County, provided realistic optimism that those five California teams may even be able to use their home ballparks for a June "spring" training.
MLB’s return-to-play proposal reportedly gives teams the option of training and playing on their home turf, sharing a big-league ballpark with another team, or taking their operations to their spring training facilities in Arizona and Florida.
Teams playing in coronavirus hotbeds are the most likely to take up the third option. So, having California on track to be able to host spring training in June takes the pressure off the Cactus League facilities.
The Giants, Angels and A’s have their own spring training sites in Scottsdale, Tempe and Mesa, respectively. But the Dodgers share Camelback Ranch with the White Sox, and the Padres share Peoria Sports Complex with the Mariners.
Having several teams in the same state would reduce travel, and therefore reduce the health concerns that come with it. But that setup would also become a social-distancing roadblock. The over 60 pages of health and safety guidelines that the owners proposed to the MLB Players Association last week — The Athletic was the first to report the details of the document — included social distancing measures.
Spring training included three phases that slowly introduced larger group workouts, and eventually intrasquad scrimmages and games. The document encouraged using nearby facilities to stagger workouts throughout the day.
It’s unclear if the Chicago teams, two other Cactus League members, will be cleared to play at Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field come June. But if enough teams descended upon Arizona, staggering workouts would become a logistical nightmare, especially with the weather constraints caused by the stifling Arizona summer heat.
Newsom’s announcement was a positive development for baseball, but it was not a guarantee that all five California teams will stay home for a June spring training. The “if” in Newsom’s statement was an important one. So important that he repeated it several times.
“We expect if we hold the rate of (COVID-19) transmissions,” he began, “if we hold the positivity rate down, we continue to do justice to the hospitalization and ICU numbers …”
If California continues to contain the coronavirus outbreak, pro sports could return to the state in June.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.