The start of the MLB season has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but baseball could return sometime next month.
Late Monday, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Major League Baseball and the Players Association are “increasingly focused” on a plan which could allow the 2020 season to start in May.
According to Passan, the plan would entail all 30 teams playing games in the Phoenix area without fans. Potential sites include the area’s 10 spring training ballparks, as well as Chase Field — home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Players, coaches and other essential personnel would live in “relative isolation” in local hotels, only traveling to the stadium and back. Per Passan, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are supportive of a plan for MLB’s return that follows social distancing and self-isolation protocols.
The plan depends on if the country sees a significant increase in the number of available coronavirus tests, ones with quick turnaround times. Some officials believe this may make June more realistic for baseball’s return, Passan said.
The plan would necessitate the approval of the players, who would be agreeing to leave their families for upwards of four-and-a-half months. Passan said there’s hope among union and league leadership that players will be convinced to play, citing the paychecks they’d receive, and the distraction baseball could provide the nation.
With the uniqueness of the situation, the league and union have discussed a number of possible significant changes. Passan mentioned several of them:
-An electronic strike zone — assuring umpires and catchers are sufficiently distanced from one another
-No mound visits from coaches or catchers
-Seven-inning doubleheaders, allowing the league to play as close to 162 games as possible
-Micing up players regularly, to benefit TV viewers
-Team members sitting six feet apart in the stands rather than dugouts
If the players and league agree to a deal, teams would head to Arizona in May — assuming the necessary housing, transportation and security are in place.