Baseball fans have already missed out on a month of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus, however, there may be good news in the works. A new report from USA Today suggests that the MLB season is aiming to get underway in late June not in a hub city, but rather in home ballparks.
The prospect does come with modifications as the league navigates operations amid a pandemic that has infected certain regions harder than others. To limit travel between regions and prevent the spread of infection, divisions would be realigned based on geographic location. Clubs would be split between three divisions of ten teams each and only play within that division.
Officials with knowledge of the proposed plan revealed to USA Today that they are cautiously optimistic about being able to hold games in MLB ballparks rather than a hub location. However, this would require approval from medical experts consulting with the league as well as sufficient COVID-19 testing supplies to keep players and the public safe.
As many have predicted, a full 162-game likely won’t be in the cards but this potential plan – which is aimed at starting no later than July 2 – could accommodate around 100 games in a condensed season. League discussions are constantly evolving with the pandemic and the season may in fact start in a hub location such as Arizona, Florida or Texas. However, optimism leads officials to believe that teams could return to their ballparks at some point this year.
Some of the country’s top figures during the pandemic have also shared their own hopes for the return of baseball that mirrors this proposed solution. Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci outlined a possibility that the MLB could return by July and as long as players take every measure to ensure their health and safety, games could run for a televised broadcast. Fauci later shared a scenario in which limited fans may be admitted into games provided they practice proper social distancing within the park. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also spoke on the subject of the MLB recently, urging team owners and league executives to get creative in how baseball could return to New York.
The MLB may be on a positive track to return this year, however, the league has also come under fire for its ticket refund policy regarding games that have gone unplayed since operations were suspended March 12. Fans filed a lawsuit against the MLB and its ticketing partners demanding refunds for tickets to games that are unplayed despite the league never officially ruling them as cancelled. The backlash resulted in the league to grant autonomy to teams for determining their own refund policies.