In an effort to move forward with a truncated season, the MLB has laid out new safety criteria to ensure players and personnel stay healthy. The proposed MLB safety rules, which were obtained by outlets like the Associated Press, are subject to approval by the MLB Players Association as negotiations ensue over how to proceed with a season.
A number of game day standards would be nixed if the guidelines are approved, including the use of bat boys and girls, team mascots, exchanging lineup cards and giving encouraging high-fives or fist bumps. Additional changes include prohibiting chewing tobacco or sunflowers and spitting. In the empty ballparks, only a select number of players would be active per game and they are encouraged to keep their distance between others both on the diamond and in the dugout.
Changes are afoot off the field as well. Players are discouraged to shower in ballpark locker rooms and may possibly be asked to enter the park already in uniform to limit crowded common spaces. Coaches in dugouts are asked to wear masks and all team personnel would travel in masks and proper protective gear, with dining in restaurants and use of hotel fitness centers also off limits on the road.
“We emphasize that this is a first draft, and will undergo several rounds of changes as we collect comments and suggestions from the clubs, the players’ association, players, and government officials,” deputy commissioner Dan Halem wrote in an email to team executives and general managers. “The document is designed to set minimum standards and identify best practices, but we have attempted to provide clubs with enough flexibility to achieve the desired health and safety objectives in a manner that is tailored to their particular circumstances, including ballpark configuration, location, and the nature of any local governmental regulations or restrictions.”
This set of proposed MLB safety standards comes as the league and its players union negotiate a format for launching the 2020 season. Owners had approved a plan that would allow the 82-game season to begin in early July, pending player approval. Games would be played in home ballparks rather than a neutral site but without any fans in attendance. On top of the prorated salary players agreed to in March, a 50-50 revenue split was proposed from owners and is expected to be a key factor in negotiations.
Ensuring safety through COVID-19 testing and medical screenings is crucial for the MLB and other sports leagues to resume. The MLB’s proposal involves team staff giving multiple temperature screenings a day and permitting COVID-19 diagnostic tests if a temperature reads higher than 100 degrees or if a person has come in direct contact with another to test positive.
Teams have been asked to give feedback on the safety protocol draft by the end of this week.