Major League Baseball (MLB) may be returning within the next month or two, with a range of dates for starting the regular season that puts players on the field no later than the 4th of July, CBS News reports.
Baseball was in its pre-season when the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic became known, and together with other sports -- pro and amateur, major and minor -- shut down their seasons. That was several weeks ago; by this point in the MLB season (late April), teams would already be well into their fifth week of play had the game not been shut down due to the pandemic.
Now, however, the country appears to be in the early phases of putting the pandemic in the rear-view mirror, gradually reopening in phases here and there. And with that reopening, league officials are looking at starting the season.
As of this writing, no official Opening Day has been announced. However, writing in The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal postulates that a 4th of July start date is at the later end of the possible range of dates during which baseball could resume.
"The most realistic time range for Opening Day — somewhere between mid-June and July 4, in the view of most officials — would allow for an 80- to 100-game regular season, with the schedule running through October," he writes.
Rosenthal then says that the post-season would wrap up in November or December, necessitating that the competing teams play in neutral sites. That's because teams in cities such as Chicago and Cleveland couldn't be expected to hold outdoor games in those months.
In fact, league officials are reportedly looking at having the entire season played at neutral parks. One plan, for example, has all of the league's games played at a handful of sites in Texas, Arizona, and Florida, with "pools" of teams to be the home teams at each location. Games would be played without spectators.
Holding the entire season in a handful of limited geographical areas limits the amount of travel the players and other team employees would have to do, thus minimizing their exposure to others. If and when social-distancing orders are completely lifted, the teams could possibly transition back to their own home ballparks.
Of course, all of this is speculative and will rely on a host of factors. Those include, but are not limited to, how the pandemic plays out; how local governments and the federal government respond to the ever-changing pandemic situation; and whether the league, its players, its owners, its sponsors, and everyone else with skin in the game can agree on the specifics.
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, Major League Soccer, like Major League Baseball, was just gearing up for its season when sidelined by the pandemic. That league is reportedly looking at playing the entirety of its season, albeit with a later ending date, and more games crammed into a shorter period of time. The National Basketball Association and National Hockey League were wrapping up their seasons when the pandemic thwarted sports and are reportedly looking at holding their playoffs without spectators at neutral sites. The National Football League is still several months away from the beginning of its regular season, and the league hopes to have a normal football season when the fall comes.