Parts of MLB Return to Play Plan Revealed

Extensive testing and on-field protocols included in ambitious plan to start 2020 season

Two baseballs
Mark Cunningham

Major League Baseball has shared 67 pages-worth of a plan it came up with to get the 2020 season started during the coronavirus pandemic.

The plan, acquired by The Athletic, is extensive, to say the least, so let's go through the main parts. MLB's plan, which will be negotiated with the MLB Players Association, calls for teams to re-start training camps in June at either their home ballparks or Spring Training facilities. Teams would only be allowed to have 50 players in camp, with workouts staggered throughout the day to keep group sizes down. The regular season would start in July.

The most important aspect of this proposal is testing. MLB will test players and coaches when they first return to the team facility. After that on-field personnel, including players, coaches, training staffs and umpires, will undergo multiple temperature checks throughout the day and several coronavirus tests during the week (the testing will be done by Utah-based Sports Medicine Research Testing Laboratory, the lab that handles performance-enhancing drug testing). Family members and front office personnel will be tested on a less consistent basis for a total that would exceed 10,000 tests a week.

Anyone who exhibits COVID-19 symptoms will be tested immediately but under this proposal a positive result would not trigger an automatic 14-day quarantine. MLB says the individual will be quarantined but is eligible to return after two negative tests and the symptoms have gone.

No fans will be allowed in the stands yet. Instead the seats will be used by players and personnel not involved in the game and they'll stay at least six feet apart. Players will have to wear masks everywhere except on the field and during workouts, while coaches and trainers will have to wear masks at all times. During the game there will be no more community water fountains. Everyone involved in the game will have their own personal drink containers while lockers in the clubhouse would be moved at least six feet apart.

Also … and this is going to be extremely strange for ballplayers … for the time-being there will be no high-fives or fist bumps permitted and spitting, sunflower seeds and smokeless tobacco are not allowed on the field. Baseball will encourage players not to shower at the stadium after games, instead having them go home or back to the team hotel to clean up. The use of taxis or ride sharing to and from facilities will be discouraged.

Of course this does not address a litany of other factors. The salary structure that is still a major sticking point must be worked out before the players even consider getting back on the field. What will the division format look like? How many games will be played? What kind of playoff structure will there be? Is the universal DH going to be a thing?

The bottom line is this is a very preliminary starting point, but that's more than we had even a week ago.

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