In an unprecedented effort to complete as many games as possible under safe conditions, the MLB season could likely begin with empty ballparks. Officials scrambling to accommodate the schedule impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are considering early games without fans in attendance, the New York Post reports.
“By a matter of weeks, we will be able to play games without crowds [before we can play games] with them,” a team executive told the publication, with another official adding “I think the only way we play, at least initially, is without fans.”
The prospect of playing without fans is one that has been in discussions among all major sports leagues. NBA and NHL officials have discussed options for resuming games in empty arenas as a less-than-ideal circumstance, but perhaps necessary in the wake of ongoing COVID-19 cases. Those leagues face the added pressure of looming playoffs that officials remain determined to carry out, with the NBA considering a reduced format and singular location while the NHL could stay on the ice through late summer.
Major League Baseball, on the other hand, has been operating under different circumstances. With a shortened season looking more likely as time passes, officials have maintained that baseball will be back as soon as authority guidelines allow. At the earliest, the league is still six weeks away from a potential start. However, that timeline could be extended even further as executives weigh spring training periods and location flexibility.
Teams playing without fans will of course see a loss in ballpark revenue, but would nonetheless still be able to reach fans through broadcasting. As the league continuously reacts to new developments, there remains a devotion to saving as many of the season’s 162 games as possible, whether it means an influx of double headers or a cancelled All-Star Game.