MLB is furthering plans to play the 2020 season.
Major League Baseball finally has a date for when players will get back onto the field.
The Players Association agreed on Tuesday to report to camp by July 1 for a reduced Spring Training, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Players will spend around three weeks training in preparation for the start of the 2020 season on July 24.
That start date will leave clubs 66 days to play 60 games. Commissioner Rob Manfred instituted the 60-game schedule on Monday after the two sides were unable to reach an agreement on a financial framework to begin the season. The league gave the union until 5 p.m. EST on Tuesday to answer whether they would be ready to report within eight days.
An agreement, however, has not been finalized, and the two sides still have to negotiate health and safety protocols. MLB was forced to close all 30 Spring Training sites in Florida and Arizona last week after COVID-19 outbreaks in the Phillies, Blue Jays, and Giants camps; two more Phillies players tested positive on Tuesday at their Spring Training facility in Clearwater, Florida, after five contracted the virus last week.
The guidelines the league has proposed are strict. Players would be tested every two days during Spring Training and the season, with twice-a-day temperature and symptom checks. Players and staff not in the game will have to wear masks in the dugout. Anyone with a pre-existing condition who doesn’t feel comfortable playing will be allowed to opt-out.
Baseball took a step closer to returning to a semblance of normal on Tuesday, but there’s going to be nothing normal about this upcoming season. Where clubs will play is still a question; with each state having different guidelines, every team playing in their own ballpark might not be feasible. The Toronto Blue Jays will likely not be able to return home with the U.S.-Canada border closed indefinitely and be forced to play in Florida.
The league is also trying out new rules. While the traditional divisions will remain intact, clubs will only play teams in their geographic location (AL East teams will play the NL East, for example). In order to prevent lengthy games, teams will go into extra innings with a runner already at second base. And there will be a universal DH for 2020, but not for 2021.
It might not look and feel the same as a usual season, but it’s better than the alternative of no baseball in 2020 at all. For a while, with both sides stuck in an interminable stalemate, that looked like a real possibility. But at least baseball will try to get a season this year, and that’s something to be thankful for.