Major League Baseball has delivered its first full safety and health proposal to players for resuming play during the coronavirus pandemic, reports said Saturday.
The 67-page draft, sent to teams Friday, includes social distancing rules for the dugout and locker room; a virus testing plan that calls for multiple tests a week (though not daily) for on-field personnel; and travel, transit and lifestyle precautions when teams are outside the ballpark and on the road.
Even team mascots are covered. They would be banned from the field.
MLB is planning a roughly 82-game season to begin in early July.
The health and safety guidelines are subject to negotiation with the players association.
Some specifics of the 67-page proposal:
• Players would be tested “regularly” for the coronavirus along with managers, coaches, umpires and a handful of essential staff members that come in contact with players. Most exams would be saliva based and could deliver results in 24 hours — MLB is outfitting its Salt Lake City testing lab for performance-enhancing drugs to handle an influx of virus tests — meaning that anything less than a daily test could theoretically allow people to slip through the cracks.
The league would pursue the least invasive and fastest testing methods commercially available without harming public health needs. MLB also is promising free diagnostic and antibody testing for people who live with players, and health care workers and first responders in every club’s home city.
People who don’t show symptoms would receive twice-a-day screening for virus-related issues, including temperature checks. Anyone found with either a temperature of 100 degrees, other symptoms consistent with the virus or close contact with a confirmed case would receive a rapid diagnostic test.
MLB wants teams to maintain dedicated testing-isolation areas at every participating ballpark, and players who show symptoms or test positive to have a place to begin quarantine.
• Lockers would be required to be 6 feet apart, a tricky fit in most home clubhouses and impossible in a visiting locker room. With player rosters likely to approach double the former 25-man standard, teams would have to adapt, with the league suggesting outdoor spaces or unused stadium areas.
• The dugout would include only “necessary players,” with auxiliary seating areas designated for inactive players and some coaches, likely in the ballpark seats. Everyone in the dugout would have to sit 6 feet apart, and managers and coaches would have to wear masks. Players would have to wear masks while in restricted areas except while playing or doing “other strenuous activities.”
• The traditional exchange of lineup cards would be eliminated. So would bat boys and girls.
• Buffets and communal water jugs would be prohibited. So would high-fives, fist bumps, hugs, spitting, tobacco use and chewing sunflower seeds. Players would not be allowed to touch their face to give signs nor lick their fingers.
• During play, fielders would be encouraged to stay several steps away from baserunners while the ball is out of play. Throwing the ball around the infield would be discouraged.
• Players would be discouraged from showering at stadiums after games.
• Players would be discouraged from taking public transportation and rideshares to and from their home or hotel. Teams would be allowed to fly but would be asked to use smaller airports. Players would be allowed to socialize with friends and family, but the league is discouraging outside contact.
• Besides players, facilities would be limited to essential personnel who need close proximity to on-field personnel, including owners, front-office staff members, public relations people and translators.
• For spring training, teams could bring 50 players each, with workouts staggered throughout the day. Pitchers and catchers would report first and be allowed to work out in groups of five or less before the rest of the team joins them.
• To mitigate heat issues, all spring games in Arizona and Florida would start at night.
• Players would be discouraged from taking public transportation and rideshares to and from their home or hotel. Teams would be allowed to fly but would be asked to use smaller airports. Players would be allowed to socialize with friends and family — a huge sticking point for many players — but the league is nonetheless discouraging contact with the outside.
Teams were asked to give their input by Friday.
The protocols were written by MLB senior vice presidents Patrick Houlihan, Bryan Seeley and Chris Young, and vice president Jon Coyles. Young is a former pitcher who retired after the 2017 season.
“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,” deputy commissioner Dan Halem wrote in an email to owners, team presidents and CEOs, and general managers that accompanied the protocols.
“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.”
• • •
Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage
GET THE DAYSTARTER MORNING UPDATE: Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information, six days a week
LOCAL RESTAURANTS: The updated database of Tampa Bay restaurants open for dine-in or takeout
UNEMPLOYMENT Q&A: We answer your questions about Florida unemployment benefits
BRIGHT SPOTS IN DARK TIMES: The world is hard right now, but there’s still good news out there
LISTEN TO THE CORONAVIRUS PODCAST: New episodes every week, including interviews with experts and reporters
HAVE YOU LOST SOMEONE YOU LOVE TO COVID-19?: Help us remember them
HAVE A TIP?: Send us confidential news tips
We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.