Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) made the decision to delay the start of their own 2020 campaign on Monday, deciding against going ahead with the planned March 20th opener, due to concerns about the growing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Major League Baseball (MLB) still plans to open their 2020 season on March 26th, and they want to play out the Grapefruit League schedule, but the league announced last night, in a conference call with reporters, that they will temporarily be closing their clubhouses to the media, opting instead for press conferences with players and keeping open the possibility further individual access for reporters, though as ESPN’s Jeff Passan noted in an article on the announcement, the players, “will be advised to keep a distance of 6 feet from reporters during interviews.”
The Center For Disease Control (CDC) has advised, “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is most often spread from person to person among close contacts (about 6 feet).”
The defending World Series champion Washington Nationals made the decision to limit fan access to players at Spring Training previously, announcing over the weekend that out of an abundance of caution, “... all Nationals personnel, including players and coaches, have been advised to avoid shaking hands and/or exchanging items (i.e. pens, balls, jerseys, etc.),” with fans.
Based on recommendations issued by MLB, the CDC, and the World Health Organization, the Nationals are making some changes to the way the we approach autographs at Spring Training.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 7, 2020
// https://t.co/EBrPTZDqZT pic.twitter.com/QHBWVGgEre
Instead, the Nationals said players would, “pre-sign items ... and distribute them to fans,” periodically before and during games.
The decision, they noted, was made after consultation with MLB, the CDC, and the World Health Organization (WHO).
MLB, in Monday’s announcement, also held open the possibility that they’ll change their plans as far as Opening Day and the start of the regular season if circumstances change.
The KBO has decided to postpone the start of the regular season until an undetermined time in April. https://t.co/oPmycsg1Kj— Dan Kurtz (@MyKBO) March 10, 2020
“MLB acknowledged that its tack could change at any time and tasked teams with drawing up contingency plans,” ESPN’s Passan wrote last night, “including the possibility of playing games in alternate locations, should the virus strongly affect a particular metropolitan area, sources told ESPN.”
In response to MLB’s decision to close locker rooms to the media, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America released the following statement:
Is MLB making the right decision here to limit interaction between players, fans, and media in an attempt to protect all sides of the equation? Should major league teams consider the possibility of delaying the start of the regular season at this point, out of an abundances of caution? Are you going to think twice about attending games if the season starts on March 26th?