Major Leage Baseball has begun work on a plan to start playing games in late June or early July without fans, with a minimum 100-game season and possibly some fans in stadiums by the time playoffs begin.
The plans are currently tentative and could include rearranging the current league structure into three geographic leagues that would allow games to be played at teams’ own stadiums and limit the need for teams to travel across the country, anonymous sources reported, according to USA Today.
The plan currently under consideration by the MLB may involve creating three leagues of 10 teams each, with play only within each division. The leagues would be East, Central, and West.
Ideas are still being circulated and discussed, so the final plan could look significantly different from what is now being discussed, USA Today pointed out.
Any plan would need to be approved by health experts and would be contingent on enough testing capacity around the country, which President Donald Trump has assured the public will be available.
Earlier plans discussed by MLB officials included rearranging teams into leagues based on their spring training locations and playing the season in exclusively in Arizona, but as the shutdowns continued past the end of April in many locations, modifications to that plan began to occur.
According to reports, some players said they didn’t want to play the entire season in one location away from their families.
Still at issue is pay for players, which some team officials have said would have to be cut due to playing in empty stadiums without any revenue from fans, USA Today said.
Officials in cities and states with ballparks have begun to signal approval for teams playing, if without fans at first, including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Pitchers and catchers report
Under the latest plan, pitchers and catchers would report to spring training locations in May, followed by 18 to 21 days of training before games would begin, according to USA Today. Players would be isolated during that time and separated by whether they had symptoms or had been infected previously.
“We have strong young athletes and we can ready them,” longtime agent Scott Boras said about resuming play. “They want to create a return to normalcy and certainly our national pastime is a sign of that.’’
“This is going to be a season like we’ve never seen,” one executive said of the plan. “But that’s fine. It’s at least a season.’’