Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic is reporting that Major League Baseball is at least considering a plan that would include playing games without fans at the spring training homes in either Florida or Arizona – though Arizona seems more likely as the travel between sites is much shorter.
It’s not just Major League Baseball that’s having the conversation, though. The NBA and The Premier League have both also had talks about essentially quarantining teams and playing in empty stadiums/arenas with all of the games being broadcasted on television.
As you can expect, the pushback from that is big. In order for a plan like that to work, it’s more than just the players that would need to be quarantined. Managers, coaches, umpires, grounds crews, skeleton crews for each stadium, radio crews, television crews, hotel workers that interact with the hotel the players stay at, the training staff, the chefs that prepare the food for the players…. there’s probably plenty of people I’m forgetting about, too, that would all need to basically be cut off completely from the world in order to make this happen.
Beyond that, there are orders in place about gathering sizes and a question about whether or not baseball would be allowed based only on those specific orders – much less all of the other concerns.
Japan and Korea both moved forward with their plans for playing in empty ballparks during their spring training schedules. It didn’t take long for Japan to have a team hit by positive tests, with one team having three players test positive for coronavirus/COVID-19. At first the league said that they would go forward with their plan to open up their season on April 24th despite that. A few days later they changed course and suspended the start of the season indefinitely.
As I’m typing this, President Trump just completed a conference call with commisioners and executives from MLB, NBA, WNBA, NFL, NHL, PGA, LPGA, NASCAR, MLB, UFC, and WWE. There has not been much come out in the five minutes since the call reportedly ended aside from this statement:
Today, President Donald J. Trump spoke by telephone with commissioners of major league sports to discuss the all-of-America response to COVID-19. The President recognized the good work being done by many teams and players to care for their communities, workforces, and fan bases across the nation. The commissioners thanked President Trump for his national leadership and for his interest in the sports industry. President Trump encouraged them to continue to support their fellow Americans during this challenging time.
If more useful information from this conference call becomes available as it relates to the sport of baseball, it will be updated.