Uncertainty clouds much of the world today as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact everyday life. But when it comes to America’s pastime, one thing is certain: the game will go on.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred assured ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt that baseball will return at one point or another, as fans around the country are now without any diamond action on what was scheduled to be the league’s Opening Day.
“The one thing I know for sure is baseball will be back,” Manfred told Van Pelt in an interview Wednesday. “Whenever it’s safe to play, we’ll be back. Our fans will be back, our players will be back, and we will be part of the recovery, the healing in this country, from this particular pandemic.”
As it stands right now, Major League Baseball is looking at opening its season in mid-May at the earliest. The league initially planned to postpone Opening Day by two weeks but further restrictions on gatherings set by the Center for Disease Control pushed baseball’s start until later this spring.
Along with other postponed sports leagues, the MLB seems to have a myriad of options in discussion for when the season opens. White Sox season ticket holders were informed that no games had been cancelled to date and they should plan on keeping their tickets until official notice is given otherwise. In keeping that mentality to not cut down the season’s schedule, sources have reported that the league will move July’s All-Star Game to the postseason and games scheduled in cities under virus lockdown would be relocated rather than cancelled outright.
One particular obstacle, however, is the notion of another training period. Spring Training was abruptly cancelled in the wake of Opening Day’s initial postponement and league officials, such as Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro, expressed the need for a four-week training period before the season gets underway.
“My optimistic outlook is that at some point in May, we’ll be gearing back up,” Manfred said. “We’ll have to make a determination, depending on what the precise date is, as to how much of a preparation period we need; whether that preparation period is going to be done in the clubs’ home cities or back in Florida and Arizona. I think the goal would be to get to as many regular-season games as possible, and think creatively about how we can accomplish that goal.”
Manfred confirmed that officials are weighing every option to get the most out of the season, including implementing more double-headers and perhaps an altered postseason format. One possibility he hopes to avoid? Games without fans in the ballparks.
“Fans are crucial to baseball as we know it,” Manfred said. “The fan experience is very, very important. I think you saw it after 9/11 in terms of the resumption of play. I was there in Shea Stadium that night that we began playing [again in New York]; it was one of the most memorable games I’ve ever attended. It’s an honor for our sport to be regarded in a way that we have been part of our country coming back from some horrific events. We hope that we can play a similar role with respect to this one.”