Report: MLB 'Increasingly Focused' on Plan to Start 2020 Season as Early as May

Blake SchusterCorrespondent IIApril 7, 2020

PHOENIX, ARIZONA  - MARCH 26: General view outside of Chase Field on March 26, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Atlanta Braves were scheduled to play a Major League Baseball opening day game tonight, which was postponed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Major League Baseball is considering a plan backed by federal health officials that would sequester all 30 teams in Arizona and play games beginning in May using, among other venues, the Arizona Diamondbacks' Chase Field.

According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, there are still plenty of details to work through, and the players union would need to sign off. Along with Chase Field, teams would reportedly potentially play at the 10 Phoenix-area spring training facilities and, potentially, other nearby fields

Ideas being floated include the use of an electronic strike zone, seven-inning doubleheaders and players wearing microphones.  

No fans would be allowed in the venues, and teams would sit six feet apart in the stands rather than use a dugout. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the National Institute of Health, have worked with MLB and support using "strict isolation" and social distancing. 

Here's an idea of how the league could operate, per Passan:

"The plan, sources said, would dictate all 30 teams play games at stadiums with no fans in the greater Phoenix area, including the Arizona Diamondbacks' Chase Field, 10 spring training facilities and perhaps other nearby fields. Players, coaching staffs and other essential personnel would be sequestered at local hotels, where they would live in relative isolation, and travel only to the stadium and back, sources said.

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"... The May return date depends on a number of concerns being allayed, and some officials believe a June opening day could be more realistic, sources said. Most important would be a significant increase in available coronavirus tests with a quick turnaround time, which sources familiar with the plan believe will happen by early May and allow MLB's testing not to diminish access for the general public."

Adhering to social-distancing practices, mound visits between pitching coaches and catchers would be eliminated, and the shortened games could allow for a near-complete 162-game season.

The upside for baseball would include becoming the first professional sports league to resume operations since the coronavirus pandemic began shutting sports down on March 11, beginning with the NBA. The creative solution here is not entirely an isolated thought process.

UFC President Dana White said on Monday he's trying to secure a private island to host fights, while the NBA has been in talks to televise games of H-O-R-S-E featuring players shooting at their homes. The NHL has reportedly considered a plan to restart the league with players sequestered in North Dakota in an environment that most closely resembles what MLB is proposing. 

With limited live sports at the moment, MLB could be in a position to negotiate a larger national television deal to help cover the estimated costs, according to Passan. 

Both the players and the league remain in contact about the viability of such a plan. While nothing is imminent, May is less than a month away, and details would need to be quickly ironed out in order to start games in that timeframe.