How California Gov. Gavin Newsom's announcement affects MLB, Cubs and White Sox

How California Gov. Gavin Newsom's announcement affects MLB, Cubs and White Sox

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.”

RELATED: Rob Manfred 'hopeful' MLB will have 2020 season, lays out coronavirus plan

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.

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Former Cubs pitcher Dan Straily, now in KBO, details games without fans

Former Cubs pitcher Dan Straily, now in KBO, details games without fans

Cubs fans may remember Dan Straily. The right-hander pitched for the club in 2014, making seven appearances (one start) before getting dealt to the Houston Astros the ensuing offseason in the Dexter Fowler trade.

Straily now pitches for the Lotte Giants in the KBO, South Korea's highest level of pro ball. The league kicked its season off earlier this month without fans in attendance, a model MLB will likely follow for most (if not all) of its potential 2020 season.

Jon Frankel, a correspondent for HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," recently interviewed current and former KBO players about the league's return during the coronavirus pandemic. In an excerpt made available via press release, Frankel asked Straily if he misses playing in front of a crowd.

MORE: Why one medical expert remains skeptical of MLB's COVID-19 precautions

"Of course. Like, even if you're on the road, and people are just telling you how much you suck — you thrive off it," Straily said. "You feed off that energy.”

Crowd noise obviously plays a big part in an athlete's adrenaline. Not having that factor will be an adjustment for MLB in 2020, and Straily took things a step further regarding the circumstances players face without fans in attendance.

“My shortstop dove for a ball. And he missed it by, like, an inch," he said. "Like, it was an incredible effort. When he hit the ground, I heard the air leave his lungs. And we've talked about that in the dugout. Because I've never once in my life heard that.”

Not having crowds to drown out on-field noise could make for a unique viewing experience for fans at home. UFC returned on May 9, and many punches and kicks were audible on ESPN's TV broadcast.

MLB teams could play proxy crowd noise in games, but nevertheless, fans may pickup noises on their TVs previously unavailable from home.

The full episode will air Tuesday at 9 p.m. CT on HBO.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.

How lessons from the KBO and Javy Báez can fix MLB's aging fan base problem

How lessons from the KBO and Javy Báez can fix MLB's aging fan base problem

The cheer master’s whistle echoed through the ballpark, and dinosaur mascots wearing giant face masks danced on top of the dugout.

With fans absent due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sunday’s scene didn’t quite do the Korean Baseball Organization experience justice. But it was still the league that taught Ryan Sadowski how to let loose on the field.

"I found that as a player I didn't allow myself to enjoy my success the way I should have because it's the game of baseball,” Sadowski told ESPN in 2016. “You're not supposed to show that you enjoy your success. I think it's something I learned here (in Korea), that I would take to younger kids in the States."

Major League Baseball is well aware that its status in the United States will continue to slip if it can’t figure out how to reach a younger audience. This summer presents an opportunity. If the players and owners can agree to a deal that makes the league’s early July target date a reality, for weeks it will be the only major sport on television.

Sports fans are clamoring for action after a months-long drought. What better time to draw in new fans? In that regard, the KBO could have something to teach MLB.

Sadowski is in a unique position to compare the KBO and MLB. He played in both leagues before becoming a KBO scout. Sadowski’s support for on-the-field expression is one Cubs shortstop Javier Báez would likely get behind.

Báez had a message similar to Sadowski's on MLB’s YouTube channel recently. In a show taped during Spring Training, Báez chatted with Puerto Rican recording artist Residente while running the Grammy Award-winner through baseball drills.

“In my personal opinion, I would like to teach young people growing up to enjoy [the game],” Báez said in Spanish. “And if they fail, fail having fun. And keep doing what is right. Let the kids play.”

Báez has been criticized for his playing style, most famously in 2018 when he bat-flipped after a popup. Afterward, former Pirates manager Clint Hurdle questioned Báez's “respect for the game.”

But Báez's huck wouldn’t have been out of place in Sunday’s KBO game between the NC Dinos and Hanwhu Eagles. The broadcast didn’t feature the kind of ostentatious bat flips that have become so popular on social media. But still, in consecutive innings, players on both teams tossed their bats several feet up the baseline to punctuate base hits. No uproar ensued.

The rate at which KBO bat flips have spread through Twitter speaks to a hunger for showboating among young baseball fans. Why not embrace it?   

“It’s not that it is not the correct way of doing it,” Báez told Residente of his playing style. “It’s just not the way many coaches teach it.”

In the United States, the NBA is the poster child for attracting millennial fans. In 2017-18, young adults led the league’s growth in ratings, according to Forbes. TV viewership among 18- to 34-year-olds was up 14 percent.

The NBA does an especially good job marketing its stars. Admittedly, the game lends itself to that strategy in a way that baseball does not. LeBron James can take over any game down the stretch, but Mike Trout isn’t going to get an at-bat every time the winning run is in scoring position.

But there are other ways NBA stars capture the fascination of young fans. Kids across the country grew up shrugging like Michael Jordan or pumping their arms and pounding their chests like LeBron James.  They take deep dives into YouTube, watching the most devastating dunks of all time – the more embarrassing for the defender, the better. None of that disrespects the game. The NBA and KBO have that in common.

MLB doesn’t have to adopt the KBO’s use of specific chants for each batter and embrace bat flipping for everything from home runs to ground outs – even though, by all accounts, those elements create a delightfully raucous atmosphere.

MLB doesn’t have to abolish baseball’s unwritten rules in one day. But an amendment is in order.

What if demonstrative zeal was instead embraced as a sign of respect for the game? After all, it might be MLB’s best hope of connecting to the next generation.