We spent some time this morning perusing Major League Baseball’s 101-page “operations manual” covering the 60-game season that will begin next month.
Everything from playing rules, to health protocols, to travel, to media regulations is covered in the document.
Many of the rules, regulations and recommendations fall under the heading of common sense. (You know, wash your hands after going to the potty.)
Nonetheless, a number of them jumped out at us and we offer them to you here:
• There is no set rule for behavior away from the field, no enforced “bubble,” but players will have to take part in an education program dedicated to health and safety and they are asked to act responsibly to eliminate risks for themselves and others.
• Players are asked to refrain from spitting. Pitchers cannot lick their fingers to improve their feel of the baseball. They are permitted to carry a small wet rag in their back pocket. They must clear the rubber and dry their hands after using it. Only water is permitted on the rag. The umpire can check the rag at any point. Such inspection would probably require him to put on gloves.
• A starting pitcher can leave the ballpark before the game if he’s not pitching that day. In fact, they are encouraged to leave the park when the team is on the road, provided there is approved transportation back to the team hotel.
• The document contains diagrams of where the manager and coaching staff should position themselves in the dugout to promote distancing.
• Non-playing personnel must wear masks in the dugout.
• Everyone on the team bus must wear a mask.
• Players not in the game must spread out and utilize auxiliary dugout space or the stands.
• Leaning on the dugout railing is discouraged but not prohibited. Leaners must cover the railing with a towel.
• Use of indoor batting cages is OK, but players are encouraged to hit outside whenever possible.
• Players will go through intake testing when reporting to “spring training,” which is scheduled to begin next week. That will include some bloodwork. Players must self-quarantine for 24-48 hours while awaiting test results. Once cleared, players will have their temperature taken twice a day and be subject to testing every other day. A joint committee will approve placements on and activations from the COVID-19 IL, which has no specific time length.
• The document contains diagrams of where players should position themselves for drills (pitcher fielding practice, base running drills, etc.) during “spring training.” This is to optimize spacing.
• Approved media can cover games. Distancing rules will apply in the press box and there will be no one-on-one access to the manager or players. Bring-your-own hoagies are permitted — with proper screening.
• Transactions and signings can resume at noon, five days before the start of training camp. With camps opening next Wednesday – July 1 – that means Friday at noon. This is relevant to the Phillies because they will be looking to sign J.T. Realmuto to a contract extension before opening day, which is likely to be July 23 or 24.
• There is no fighting, no charging the mound. That would be a violation of social distancing.
• There will be contact tracing after a positive test.
• High-risk players or staff will be offered private workspace, locker room space, travel arrangements, if necessary.
• “Spring training” will include three phases, starting with small groups and gradually growing as the season approaches. The third stage of camp allows for a number of games.
• There must be six feet between lockers in clubhouses and auxiliary clubhouse are encouraged for spacing.
• It has been suggested that teams use curtains, etc., to promote distancing in shower areas.
• There will be an August 31 trade deadline.
• Pitchers will be given a personal set of baseballs for bullpen sessions.
• Batting helmets will be cleaned, sanitized and individually wrapped before being packed for travel.
• Teams are encouraged to use small or private airports, which should not be a problem because all teams fly private charters.
• Members of a team traveling party must board planes with distancing in mind. Travelers should spread out on planes, wipe down touch areas and open the air vents.
• Travelers who use the lavatory on a team plane must use disposable gloves, close the lid before flushing and wash hands. Also, people on team flights are asked to wait several minutes between uses of the lavatory. (That’s a good tip even in normal times.)