Major League Baseball is inching closer to putting itself in a position to return.
According to a 67-page document obtained by The Athletic, MLB proposed protocols to the Major League Baseball Players Association concerning health and safety measures that would be taken if the 2020 MLB season were to begin.
Among the areas covered in the document include testing plans, an estimate of what spring training would look like, on-field operations, facility protocols and travel procedures, among other topics.
Evan Drellich writes that MLB is proposing regular COVID-19 testing for all players, managers, coaches and umpires in addition to a limited number of essential staff who come into close contact with players. These tests would be conducted multiple times per week with an estimated turn-around time of 24 hours. Any individual who tests positive for the coronavirus would be required to self-quarantine and be treated accordingly. A COVID-19 education program is also being developed by MLB for its players and other personnel.
Drellich adds that spring training is proposed to being limited to 50 players per team with staggered workouts and reporting dates to minimize contact. Teams are also encouraged to use alternate facilities such as college stadiums where possible to further decrease risk.
In-game measures like prohibiting spitting, banning communal water or energy drink coolers and requiring non-playing personnel to wear masks at all times are some other ideas being proposed by MLB in an effort to safely return to play.
With regards to travel, teams are being asked to fly into smaller airports where possible and encouraging players to isolate at hotels when not at the ballpark. In home cities or spring training facilities, players would be permitted to stay at desired locations.
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, fighting and instigating fights are strictly prohibited now more than usual. Players must not make physical contact with one another for any reason unless it's part of game action. Violations of these rules will result in severe penalties, Sherman adds.
1 interesting item from MLB proposal: Fighting and instigating fights are strictly prohibited. Players must not make physical contact with others for any reason unless a normal and permissible part of game action. Violations of these rules will result in severe discipline.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) May 16, 2020
MLB Opening Day was originally scheduled for March 26 but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed back the start of the regular season indefinitely. No concrete plan to begin the 2020 season has been publicly announced but multiple reports indicate MLB is targeting a best-case-scenario return of early July, though that depends on many factors.
Before a potential return to play, MLB and the MLBPA would have to come to agreements on a wide variety of issues including health and safety measures, a season structure and player pay.