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Major League Baseball made clear it has not yet settled on contingency plans to restart the 2020 season after it was put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.
MLB released a statement Tuesday, saying it was exploring a few plans to play games when medical experts say it is safe to have them. Officials delayed the start of Opening Day and canceled spring training as the U.S. worked to combat the spread of the illness.
“MLB has been actively considering numerous contingency plans that would allow play to commence once the public health situation has improved to the point that it is safe to do so. While we have discussed the idea of staging games at one location as one potential option, we have not settled on that option or developed a detailed plan,” the league said.
“While we continue to interact regularly with government and public health officials, we have not sought or received approval of any plan from federal, state and local officials, or the Players Association. The health and safety of our employees, players, fans and the public at large at paramount, and we are not ready at this time to endorse any particular format for staging games in light of the rapidly changing public health situation caused by the coronavirus.”
According to multiple reports on Monday, MLB and the players union were discussing a plan to play all games in the Phoenix area in front of no fans. Arizona has 10 spring training ballparks and the Arizona Diamondbacks’ stadium within 50 miles of each other.
“It allows for the immediacy of a schedule, where you might be able to begin it and televise it, provide Major League Baseball to America,” said Scott Boras, baseball’s most prominent agent. “I think players are willing to do what’s necessary because I think they understand the importance of baseball for their own livelihoods and for the interest of our country and providing a necessary product that gives all the people that are isolated enjoyment.
“It gives them a sense of a return to some normalcy,” Boras added. "You talk to a psychologist about it and they say it’s it’s really good for a culture to have to have sport and to have a focus like that, where for a few hours a day they can take their minds off the difficult reality of the virus.”
Texas Rangers president Jon Daniels told the Associated Press that officials were discussing options but didn’t want to speculate.
“But, obviously, we’d all love to find a way to play, provided we could do safely, and that would be the priority,” he said.
The players’ association would want to survey its members to determine whether they would support such a plan, the Associated Press reported.
“You’re going to be largely separated from your families and you’re going to have to function in a very contained way. It’s not a normal life, this idea,” Boras said. “You’re going to have an identified group of people. You’re going to have a constantly tested group of people. And you’re going to have a very limited access of those people to the outside world so that you can assure a very uncontaminated league, if you will, to produce a product that is inspirational to our country.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.