MLB players union considers playing games with no fans to start season, Angels pitcher says

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Baseball fans could see the return of America’s favorite pastime sooner than they expected, at least from their couches.

Los Angeles Angels pitcher, and MLB union representative, Andrew Heaney told reporters Tuesday that the union has engaged in talks about starting the season with empty ballparks in order to return to normalcy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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“Baseball really shows why it’s the national pastime in situations similar to this, in difficult times,” he said. “To me, that’s when the sport of baseball flexes its muscles. I think that’s something that, as players, we understand that too.”

Heaney confirmed union chief Tony Clark’s remarks from last week that the league is “very open” to the idea of games with no fans, in addition to considering playing split doubleheaders.

Commissioner Rob Manfred announced earlier this month that the MLB would push back opening day to mid-May at the earliest.

“The clubs remain committed to playing as many games as possible when the season begins,” the commissioner’s office said in a statement at the time.

A Toronto Blue Jays executive has said players would need a four-week spring training before the regular season would begin.

There’s been no official timetable as to when to expect the season to begin but Heaney says he’s keeping busy by watching old games.

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“I remember watching the Mets and Yankees in the Subway Series, [President George W.] Bush throwing out [his] first pitch after 9/11 and then that World Series,” he said.

“I’ve actually been watching those videos at night just kind of reminding myself how much I enjoy watching baseball and love baseball.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.