As COVID-19 continues its spread around the world, MLB officials continue to monitor the disease as they prepare for the 2020 season.
American Sports Prepare
With 647 total cases of the Coronavirus Disease in the United States (as of March 11), public anxiety is rapidly reaching the sports world.
In a rare joint statement between the major active American sports leagues, locker rooms would be closed to media access.
The NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS are closing access to locker rooms and clubhouses to all non-essential personnel in response to the coronavirus crisis, the leagues announced in a joint statement Monday night. https://t.co/b7xD4ePwHt
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 9, 2020
The major American sports leagues usually work independently from one another. Their decision to come together amplifies the severity of the coronavirus outbreak.
In addition, ESPN MLB columnist Jeff Passan says that these four leagues coming together is a responsibility of the MLB, NHL, NBA and MLS. This starts with keeping the media out of locker rooms.
Isolating players allows them to preserve their health. However, MLB is only in spring training, not the most popular time of the season. The NBA and NHL, which are currently active and nearing the playoffs, have discussed possibilities of playing games without fans. This also included moving games cities.
MLB’s Possible Options
Major League Baseball is different. Their current crowds are smaller because it is the preseason. In 2016, the 30 teams had an average of 7,673 attendees per game. Compare this with the NBA’s 2018 regular-season average of 17,987 fans per game, and it is understandable why the NBA and NHL are looking at playing behind closed doors, or without fans.
For Major League Baseball, officials are currently looking at a variety of options as their regular season nears. According to ESPN MLB columnist Jeff Passan, Major League Baseball’s opening day could be postponed or even canceled.
Passan mentioned the Nippon Baseball League, which delayed their Opening Day due to the coronavirus outbreak in Japan and nearby China and South Korea.
MLB’s Opening Day is currently set for March 26. Jeff Passan says that as of now, MLB will monitor the situation, but go ahead with that plan.
However, those new big-league stadiums may not be the hosts.
Part of the reason spring training has been able to continue is because of those smaller crowds. In places like Yankees Stadium, Dodgers Stadium and Busch Stadium, the average attendance is over 40,000 people per game. This is often quadruple what spring training stadiums see on average.
Jeff Passan says that as MLB continues to monitor the disease, they are considering moving regular-season games to these smaller spring training facilities. This avoids the threat of missing games.
With nearly two weeks still remaining in the 2020 edition of spring training, MLB’s treatment of the coronavirus could lead to drastic changes seldom seen in American sports.