While MLB is currently halted due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, the league is considering a new idea: putting all 30 teams in the Phoenix area and playing empty ballparks.
The potential plan was discussed Monday by the league along with the players’ association, The Associated Press reports. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the potential plan could allow the league to start games “as early as May.” Both sides reportedly held a phone call to discuss the different paths the league may take going forward, people familiar with the situation told AP on condition of anonymity. At this time, no official details have been announced regarding the new plan.
Passan went on to note that the league is currently relying on “a significant increase in available coronavirus tests” before the MLB can move forward with a new plan. This would allow the MLB to access a large amount of tests without using too much of the supply saved for the general public.
At this point, ideas are still up in the air. Even if the plan to hold games in Arizona moves forward, this idea would have to overcome many obstacles, the sources said. Spring training would be split in between Arizona and Florida, as Arizona has 10 spring training parks and the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field is all within about 50 miles. Florida’s spring training ballparks are spread across 220 miles.
Baseball’s prominent agent Scott Boras told AP that the change would allow an “immediacy of a schedule, where you might be able to begin it and televise it, provide Major League Baseball to America.”
“I think players are willing to do what’s necessary because I think they understand the importance of baseball for their own livelihoods and for the interest of our country and providing a necessary product that gives all the people that are isolated enjoyment,” Boras said.
He went on to note that the baseball season could give people “a sense of a return to some normalcy.”
“You talk to a psychologist about it and they say it’s really good for a culture to have a sport and to have a focus like that, where for a few hours a day they can take their minds off the difficult reality of the virus,” he said.
Other changes this season may include an electronic strike zone to allow space between catchers and umpires, as well as a slate of seven-inning double-headers.
The MLB season was originally set to kick-off on March 26, but spring training was halted on March 12, alongside other league operations. The league has also considered starting the season with empty ballparks and also threw around the idea of a shortened regular season of 100 games.