Major League Baseball (MLB) dimmed any notion of a quick start to the 2020 season on Tuesday after a report that it was focused on a plan to open in May in Arizona.
ESPN claimed MLB was “increasingly focused” on a plan to isolate players and umpires and have all 30 teams stage games in empty stadiums around Phoenix, Arizona, used for pre-season training as well as Chase Field, the domed home of MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks.
The idea, unnamed sources told ESPN, has the support of top federal public health officials who think clubs could operate safely despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
But MLB, in a statement, said no detailed plan for such a move has been developed and they have not sought approval from officials or the players union.
“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,” the league statement said.
“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.
“While we continue to interact regularly with governmental 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 are 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.”
ESPN’s report said players would be tested and would live in hotels in relative isolation, traveling only to and from stadiums.
“I think there would be an adjustment but we would follow suit,” retired MLB star and ESPN commentator Alex Rodriguez said.
“Players want to play and fans want to watch.”
The report said top federal health officials have spoken about the viability of such a plan with MLB, which was to have opened a campaign of 162 games per club on March 26.