With "support of high-ranking federal public health officials who believe the league can safely operate amid the coronavirus pandemic," Major League Baseball and its players are "increasingly focused" on a plan that would allow for the 2020 season to begin as early as May, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported early Tuesday.
According to the report, the plan -- which has been in motion for a while -- would have all 30 big league teams playing in Arizona (near Phoenix) in ballparks without fans while remaining isolated near the Phoenix area.
Those ballparks would include Chase Field -- the retractable roof home of the Arizona Diamondbacks -- as well as the 10 spring training ballparks in the area and "perhaps other nearby fields."
While the plan reportedly has the backing of federal officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as health officials, there are many potential roadblocks when it comes to bringing such a bold effort to fruition.
Among them, per the report:
- There being a "significant increase in available coronavirus tests with a quick turnaround time," which Passan reports could happen by early-May without diminishing "access for the general public" to the tests.
- Putting protocols in place and getting buy-in from coaches, managers, and other necessary personnel.
- Working out security and transportation.
The report adds that if the plan goes forward, the season could also be "unique" when it comes to roster size (they would be bigger), the potential of using an electronic strike zone in order for home plate umpires to socially distance, and the possibility of seven-inning doubleheaders in an effort to play as close to a full 162-game season as possible.
Speaking Tuesday morning on ESPN's Get Up, Passan -- responding to the potential difficulty of getting players to buy in if it means separating from their families -- recalled two conversations he had with the same player.
In the first conversation, the player said "no f--king way" when asked if he would be open to the plan. More recently, that player -- who said he had since spoken with his wife and cited monetary factors -- suggested he would participate.
As things currently stand, the earliest the regular season will start is May 10.
It is not clear whether MLB would begin an abbreviated spring training before the May 10 date should its plan to begin the season in isolation in Arizona move forward.