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So where will they train? Nationals without clearance to use Nationals Park

So where will they train? Nationals without clearance to use Nationals Park

Six days before spring training is supposed to take place, the Nationals do not have clearance from the District of Columbia to operate in Nationals Park.

Major League Baseball and the MLBPA agreed to start spring training again on July 1. All spring training facilities have been shut down because of recent positive tests for coronavirus at various facilities. The Nationals never went back to using their spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., once it was closed in late March. Their initial plan was to return, but that changed when Florida’s spike in positive tests occurred.

Which moves them to their home stadium starting next week. The Nationals are currently in the back-and-forth waiver process with the District. Their waiver has not been denied. It also has not been approved.

“There has been a process for waivers throughout our pandemic response since we closed non-essential businesses,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Thursday at a press conference when addressing the status of waivers in general. “And that process is that some people we have encouraged to go through the waiver process, others have reached out to us proactively. I think since we've started Phase 2, we've gotten many more organizations reaching out to us for a waiver. Typically what happens is Director [Christopher] Rodriguez and his team review it, it has health [department] input as well, then there's some decision if this is a kind of a one-off request that doesn't implicate other businesses we may make a decision. Some of them are in a class and we may want to consider changes to the whole class.”

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Two sports facilities within District boundaries -- D.C. United’s Audi Field and the Wizards’ practice facility in Ward 8 -- received approved waivers to hold team practices. The Wizards initially re-opened their practice facility on May 29 for voluntary individual workouts prior to receiving the waiver for full-team practices June 22 when the District entered Phase 2 of re-opening. D.C. United began holding full team practices June 15.

“We continue to work closely with city officials and Major League Baseball on all of the appropriate health protocols in preparation for workouts to begin at Nationals Park next week,” a Nationals spokesperson told NBC Sports Washington.

In regards to the Nationals, and other larger venues, Christopher Rodriguez, director of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, said the process is ongoing.

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“You saw that there were two that were posted in terms of what we approved and I think they're really good examples of the process that D.C. health and Homeland Security have laid out, which is those applicants for waivers have to provide to us very detailed plans as to how they will adhere to public health guidelines in their facilities and to conduct certain business-essential activities,” Rodriguez said Thursday. “Those plans go through a very rigorous and thorough review by the D.C. department of health and by emergency management. We then talk to those applicants about changes we need to see in order for them to restart essential business activities. So, that is sort of our process that we have put in place for waiver applicants.”

And the current status of this Nationals’ waiver request, among others?

“They are still being reviewed by Homeland Security and by the D.C. Department of Health,” Rodriguez said. “We got a first round of plans from them and we are reviewing those right now to make sure that everything that's in there that's written down adheres to very strict public health guidelines.”

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Mets’ Jeff McNeil robs Asdrúbal Cabrera of an extra-base hit with leaping catch at outfield wall

Mets’ Jeff McNeil robs Asdrúbal Cabrera of an extra-base hit with leaping catch at outfield wall

The Nationals appeared poised to put together a big inning Thursday when they loaded the bases with one out in the top of the first against the New York Mets. They scored one run on a fielder’s choice, bringing up first baseman Asdrúbal Cabrera to push the score further.

Cabrera hit a deep flyball to left field, sending Mets outfielder Jeff McNeil sprinting toward the wall. He jumped and made a highlight-reel catch to end the inning and prevent the Nationals from inflicting further damage.

McNeil, a utility player who also handles multiple infield positions, hit the wall hard and appeared to injure his leg on the play. He was unable to walk off the field and a cart was summoned to help bring him to the trainer’s room.

Losing McNeil would a significant blow for the Mets. Their regular No. 3 hitter, McNeil entered Thursday hitting .293 on the season. If he is sidelined, it would further stretch New York’s depth around the diamond following Yoenis Céspedes’ decision to opt out and injuries to Robinson Cano and Amed Rosario.

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Juan Soto makes former Nationals INF Mark DeRosa’s All-MLB team

Juan Soto makes former Nationals INF Mark DeRosa’s All-MLB team

Juan Soto’s 2020 season is barely over a week old and he’s already earning selections on lists of the league’s best players.

MLB Network analyst Mark DeRose, a former MLB infielder who spent one year in Washington, released his All-MLB team and slotted Soto in at left field.

Entering play Thursday, Soto is hitting .423 with four home runs and three doubles over his first seven games of the year. The 21-year-old missed the first week and a half after testing positive for the coronavirus just hours before the Nationals hosted the New York Yankees on Opening Night.

Soto’s biggest challengers for an outfield spot include Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger, Charlie Blackmon, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Mookie Betts. Though he may not have yet earned the hardware that some of those other players have in their careers, Soto has evidently impressed DeRosa enough to earn a spot above all of them.

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