Major League Baseball has not gotten the chance to kick off its 2020 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league, like every other non-eSports league in the United States, is on the sideline trying to wait all of this out, but unlike the NBA, NHL, and MLS, baseball may have a light at the end of the tunnel.
According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, the league and its players association are in conversations about a plan to begin this year in an isolated environment. Passan laid out the details of the league, which would take place in and around Phoenix — including Chase Field, the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and a myriad of spring training stadiums — with no fans. Like the reported plan the NBA is kicking around that would keep its players away from everything, MLB players would live in hotels near stadiums and “live in relative isolation.”
In the most interesting twist, this would reportedly be possible because of something in desperate need across the United States right now: rapid and frequent testing.
The May return date for the plan depends on a number of concerns being allayed, and some officials believe a June Opening Day could be more realistic, sources said. Most important would be a significant increase in available coronavirus tests with a quick turnaround time, which sources familiar with the plan believe will happen by early May and allow MLB’s testing to not diminish access for the general public.
Skepticism reportedly comes due to the logistical monstrosity that this would require, and players may not be on board becausee of the amount of time this would require living in isolation and away from their families. However, there were calls between the league and the MLBPA on Monday, which came after federal health officials — including those from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health — had spoken to both sides and, per Passan, “have been supportive of a plan that would adhere to strict isolation.”
If this turns into something feasible and not a pie in the sky idea to get a sport back, baseball does seem pretty uniquely positioned to have a runway to return, if only because players can keep some amount of distance between themselves most of the time. Some other measures to help with this are reportedly being kicked around, like having teams use the stands instead of dugouts, scrapping mound visits, and robotic home plate umpires.
The biggest news in all of this is, of course, the belief that quick testing will become available May, which could help speed up a whole lot of things outside of the world of sports. But beyond that, getting baseball back and having players be safe would a wonderful step in the right direction, so hopefully, something can be worked out here.