After the nation…and much of the world…begins to “get back to business”, professional sporting teams are also working toward a start or restart including Major League Baseball.
The MLB is hoping to get back to playing in the next couple of months, but there will be many changes for everyone especially when it comes to the teams and how the players must conduct themselves.
For the most part, players demonstrate social distancing while on the field but once off the field, things are a bit different. They will be required to keep their distance during the performances of the “Star Spangled Banner” and “American the Beautiful”.
During the game, the infielders are being “encouraged” to keep their distance between themselves and baserunners between pitches and there is to be no contact between the base coaches, umpires, and players. Players are being encouraged not to communicate with opposing players during the game.
The players are being encouraged to take showers at home and come to the park already in uniform.
Team personnel will not be allowed to eat out in restaurants while on the road. Masks must be worn while in the dugout and everyone must wear protection while traveling on buses and planes.
But perhaps the biggest change that will affect fans and players alike is the disappearance of the team mascots. The most famous of them The Philly Phanatic and Mr. Met who are known for their antics will be conspicuously missing from the game.
The traditional exchange of lineup cards at home plate is being eliminated and players will no longer be allowed the exchange high fives or fist pumps; spitting, and the licking of fingers are prohibited, signs may no longer include touching the face; and bat boys and girls are being eliminated.
The tradition of throwing the ball around the infield is being discouraged and if multiple players touch a ball during a single play, the ball will be taken out of the game. Employees who “rub the ball” with mud must now wear gloves.
Water jugs, saunas, steam rooms, pools, and cryotherapy chambers are prohibited. The players are being discouraged from using the indoor batting cages and the wearing of batting gloves in highly encouraged. Outdoor batting cage practice pitchers must wear a mask.
Dugout phones must be disinfected after each use.
Each team is limited to a 50 man roster with the number of active players at game time yet to be determined. Teams are being encouraged to conduct all team meetings outside where the participants can observe social distancing.
Only team staff will be allowed to enter the clubhouse, the dugouts, or the field.
The field seats around the dugouts will remain empty to aid in distancing.
MLB has asked the teams to respond with any comments or suggestions by May 22.
MLB Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem spoke on the proposed rules saying, “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. 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.”
At least for the early games, fans will not be allowed to attend. In an effort to limit the number of personnel at the field, scoreboard video is not be allowed but music will be to help “provide a familiar background.”
Once the teams are permitted to report for “spring training”, there will be restrictions as to the number of players allowed at one time and everyone will be screened when they arrive with an additional quarantine until testing results are available.
A 67 page “manual” of the new rule changes was given to each of the 32 teams.