PHOENIX—- We no longer need to hear the words “pro rata” or “pro rata”.
We don’t have to listen to the players rip the owners apart, the owners shoot the union, or the fans trying to choose sides.
It’s been 104 days since baseball was shut down – three months of name-calling and bitterness.
And while there may be 30 teams fighting this summer to be the World Series champion, but everyone has the same ultimate mission – defeating COVID-19.
Major-league players will begin to gather this week for the resumption of spring training in their home towns.
The biggest challenge now will be staying healthy enough to play 60 games over 66 days.
Last week, around 40 positive tests were performed by baseball players and staff.
And just minutes after MLB and the union announced the season would officially begin on July 23 or 24 when it was reported that Rockies All-Star outfielder Charlie Blackmon and teammates Phillip Diehl and Ryan Castellani had been tested positive for COVID-19.
No wonder the 2020 MLB Operations Manual consumed over 100 pages, trying to give the sport the best possible chance to get through the season, with guidelines ranging from hand washing to where you can shower. , the ban on hotel swimming pools, the restriction to room service, even standing (or kneeling) for the national anthem.
Yes, the manual, a copy obtained by USA TODAY Sports, has it all.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge and unprecedented impact on our daily lives, our families and our communities,” the introduction reads. “It’s a difficult time, but we will meet the challenge by continuing to work together. Following the health and safety protocols described in this manual will increase our chances of success.
“We hope that the resumption of baseball will, in its own way, restore a sense of normalcy and aid recovery.”
Players have been urged to show up at their team’s home stadium before July 1, with spring training scheduled to start July 3, but please don’t all show up at the same time. All players must undergo an immediate temperature check and two COVID-19 tests – a diagnostic PCR test and an antibody test taken from blood.
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Players must then be quarantined for 24 to 48 hours while awaiting test results. And as long as they remain seated during their quarantine, they will need to take a COVID-19 educational course before they can start training.
Throwers will report first, then position players for a few days.
Players will not even have the same lockers. Maybe not even the same locker room. All lockers should be six feet apart, which means some will be in the home clubhouse, some will be in the visitors’ clubhouse, some will be in the referee’s room, others simply in the stadium staff cafeteria.
Spring training will be divided into three phases, starting with individual groups and small groups, full team training sessions, and then no more than three spring training games.
Once the season begins – ooh boy – be prepared for the restrictions.
Players, who will be prohibited from entering the stadium if their temperature is above 100.4, will have their temperature and symptoms checked at least twice a day. They will have saliva tests every other day. And once a month, players will receive antibody tests.
There will be no idleness in the club house. Players cannot come less than five hours before match time. They must leave 90 minutes after the match. There is no buffet, only pre-packaged food. And no showers. MLB would prefer players to shower at the hotel.
When players enter the field, they should stay six feet away from everyone. It means your teammates, coaches and opponents. The rule of fraternization ignored for decades will now be strictly applied.
When the game starts, not everyone can sit in the canoe. Some players will need to sit in the stands, spaced not only between seats, but entire rows. There won’t be any fans anyway.
And no more need to spit. Tobacco is prohibited. You can chew, but not the sunflower seeds. Chewing gum is allowed, but you cannot spit it out.
Sorry, pitchers, don’t even think about licking your fingers. They can carry a damp cloth in their pocket, but not lick it.
Hitters, don’t look for a batboy or a batgirl to pick up your bat. You are alone..
Don’t like the Houston Astros? Still mad at the Boston Red Sox? Don’t even think about starting a brawl unless you want to sit down almost a third of the season.
If you’re hitting a home run, winning a game with a walk-off, or even throwing a no-hitter, you need to act like you’ve done nothing more than successfully wash your hands. Gone are the days of harassing plate players, throwing Gatorade coolers and throwing pies in their faces.
And when you get to your hotel, whatever you do, don’t stop at the bar for a quick adult drink, grab a bite to eat at the hotel restaurant, or even use the elevator. Using an elevator is not prohibited, but MLB requires all players to have low-level rooms and to use the stairs.
If a player even has close contact with someone with symptoms, they must undergo expedited testing. If they are positive, they are immediately quarantined and can only come back after being negative twice, at least 24 hours apart, without fever for at least 72 hours.
This season will be the survival of the strongest, and perhaps the luckiest, with the healthiest team last standing.
The user manual really covers just about everything, and even if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in a city, forcing a team to abandon their stadium, the MLB has the right to move games to neutral venues. for the regular season and the playoffs.
If there is a major outbreak in a squad, there is a 60-man club player pool hoping to cover it.
But yet, if COVID-19 rears its ugly head across the country, closing cities again, baseball will be powerless to stop it.
It’s a scary time. Every player has the option of not playing, and those considered to be “high risk” candidates, such as Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius (kidney disease) and Oakland A pitcher Jake Diekman (colitis ulcerative), will always be paid.
Now is not the time to be a hero. They are not first responders. They are ball players.
They’re just trying to play a game they love, at a time when we could desperately use entertainment, with MLB and the Players Union trying to do everything to make it as safe as humanly possible.
We are about to find out if this can work.
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