PHOENIX—- We no longer have to hear the words “prorated” or “prorated”.
We don’t have to listen to the players tearing apart the owners, the owners who criticize the union, or the fans trying to choose sides.
104 days have passed since baseball closed, three months of insults and rancor.
And although there may be 30 teams fighting this summer to be the World Series champion, but they all have the same final mission: to beat COVID-19.
Major League Baseball players will begin meeting this week to resume spring training in their home cities.
The biggest challenge now will be staying healthy enough to play 60 games for 66 days.
Last week there were about 40 positive tests for players and staff in baseball.
And just minutes after MLB and the union announced that 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 tested positive for COVID- 19.
It’s no wonder why MLB’s 2020 Operations Manual consumed over 100 pages, trying to give the sport the best possible chance to get through the season, with guidelines from washing hands, to where you can bathe, to banning swimming pools from hotels, restrict themselves 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,” says the introduction. “This is a challenging time, but we will meet the challenge by continuing to work together. Compliance with the health and safety protocols outlined in this manual will increase our chance of success.
“We hope that the resumption of baseball, in its small way, will restore a sense of normalcy and aid in recovery.”
Players have been instructed to show up at their team’s ballpark before July 1, and spring training will begin on July 3, but please don’t show up all at once. All players must undergo an immediate temperature control and two COVID-19 tests: a diagnostic PCR test and a blood drawn antibody test.
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Players must be quarantined for 24 to 48 hours pending the test results. And while seated during their quarantine, they will be asked to complete a COVID-19 educational course before training can begin.
Pitchers will report first, and then position players for a few days.
Players won’t even have the same lockers. Maybe not even the same wardrobe. All lockers must be within six feet of each other, which means that some will be in the clubhouse of the home, others in the visitor’s home, some in the refereeing room, others simply in the cafeteria of the team workers. stadium.
Spring training will be divided into three phases, starting with small and individual groups, full team training, and then no more than three spring training games.
Once the season starts, ooh boy, get ready for the restrictions.
Players, who will be banned 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 rest in the clubhouse. Players cannot come earlier than five hours before game time. They must leave 90 minutes after the game. There is no buffet, only prepackaged food. And without showers. MLB would prefer players to shower at the hotel.
When players enter the field, they must stay six feet away from everyone. That means your teammates, coaches, and opponents. The fraternization rule that has been ignored for decades will now be strictly enforced.
When the game starts, not everyone can sit on the bench. Some of the players will have to sit in the stands, spaced not only between seats, but between entire rows. There will be no fans anyway.
And no more spitting. Tobacco is prohibited. You can chew, but not 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 wet rag in their pocket, but without licking.
Hitters, don’t look for a batboy or batgirl to pick up your bat. You’re on your own..
Don’t like the Houston Astros? Still holding a grudge against the Boston Red Sox? Don’t even think about starting a fight unless you want to sit almost a third of the season.
If you hit a home run, win a game with a tiebreaker, or even pitch a no-hit game, you should act as if you have done nothing more than wash your hands successfully. The days of harassing players at the plate are over, throwing Gatorade ice cubes and shoving cakes in the face.
And when you arrive at your hotel, whatever you do, don’t stop at the bar for a quick adult drink, grab a bite in the hotel restaurant, or even use the elevator. The use of 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 who shows symptoms, they should undergo accelerated testing. If they test positive, they are immediately quarantined and cannot return until negative two times, at least 24 hours apart, without fever for at least 72 hours.
This season will be a survival of the fittest, and perhaps the luckiest, with the healthiest team as the last one standing.
The operations manual really covers almost everything, and even if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in a city, forcing a team to leave their stadium, MLB has the right to switch games to neutral sites for the regular season and the postseason.
If there is a significant outbreak in a team, there is a 60-man club player group hoping to cover it.
But still, if COVID-19 raises its ugly head across the country, once again shutting down cities, baseball will be unable to stop it.
It is a terrifying moment. All players have the option not to play, and those considered “high-risk” candidates, such as Philly shortstop Didi Gregorius (kidney disorder) and Oakland A pitcher Jake Diekman (ulcerative colitis), will remain paid.
This is not the time to be a hero. These are not the first to respond. They are ball players.
They’re just trying to play a game they love, at a time when we could desperately be able to use some entertainment, with MLB and the players union trying to do everything they can to make it as safe as possible.
We are about to find out if it can work.
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