Rays win in extras through Choi walk-off.
Tampa Bay Rays' Ji-Man Choi, right, celebrates his walkoff home run off New York Yankees relief pitcher Cory Gearrin during the 12th inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Baseball is Back! For Real!

One hundred and four days. Fourteen weeks. That’s how it has been since baseball was shut down. In six days, it’s back. Late Tuesday night, MLB and the player’s association finalized health-and-safety protocols, officially ending labor talks.

Baseball is back!

The Rays went on twitter to announce the news in Michael Jordon fashion.

While not everyone enjoyed the news, fans, teams and players are happy to have baseball back.

What will this season look like?

Players report to Spring Training 2.0 on July 1 to prepare for Opening Day July 23 or 24.

The 2020 MLB season features a 60-schedule. Teams play their division opponents and their interleague counterparts (AL East and NL East). Division matchups make up 40 of the 60 games, while interleague games make up the other 20. For example, the Rays will play the Red Sox 10 times and the Marlins four times. The season should finish around the time it normally would (no Thanksgiving baseball, sadly).

There will be games in home ballparks. Not sure if the Toronto Blue Jays can play in Toronto yet, or if they play in Dunedin.

The National League has a designated hitter this year. If it gives NL purists a peace of mind, Madison Bumgarner can DH. If Bartolo Colon comes back, he can too.

No word yet on how the leagues and standing will look this year. But based on the schedule set up, regular division standings seem to be happening. Expect the five-team AL East, not the 10-team East Division previously discussed.  

The one rule change that is rubbing many the wrong way is extra innings will start with a runner on second. This should speed up games, but most will hope this rule doesn’t stick.

No doubleheaders will be played (though the weather could change that).

The trade deadline is Aug. 31. Not sure how many players will be moved around because of COVID-19, but the option has to be there.

Heath-and-Safety Protocols

MLB declared health the number-one priority this season.

Coronavirus testing will happen regularly for players and staff. Spring Training squad will be no more than 50 players. Lockers are encouraged to be six feet apart. Players are encouraged to isolate in hotels while on the road but can go home during home games.

No spitting of any kind will be allowed. Chewing gum is permitted, however.

Lastly, there will be no exchanging of lineup cards before games. Social distancing remember? Lineups will be submitted via an app instead.

About Harrison Smajovits

Harrison is a sports coordinator at ESPN 98.1 FM/850 AM WRUF. He served as a beat writer for Florida Gators football for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. He also contributes to WRUF's Gainesville Sports Center segments and makes appearances on the Clash on Harp on Sports. Harrison has been a content writer for WRUF since January 2019 as well.

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