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SPORT REPORT: Baseball during a pandemic

We are currently in what would have been over a month into the 2020 Major League Baseball season and a pitch has yet to be thrown. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the MLB has been forced to shorten its season for the first time since the players’ strike in 1994. However, in this case, there is hope for baseball fans that the season will eventually resume and we will be able to attend a ballgame on a hot summer day. 

To get to the point of where fans can attend games the season will have to start in an unusual manner. MLB executives have been working on developing a plan for weeks now and, most recently, the news suggests that a proposal may be ready. According to ESPN reporter Jeff Passen, teams have begun to encourage players to prepare for a “spring” training in mid-June with the regular season beginning in July. 

Although there will be a number of obstacles the MLB will have to go through in order to get this proposal rolling, it should bring hope and excitement for baseball fans. With this being said, July will likely be the latest possibility for a season premiere because if it were to start any later games would stretch into December and January where weather will likely become a serious issue. 

Originally, there were rumors of a proposal where all MLB teams would be stationed in Arizona and play the scheduled games at spring training facilities. Restructured leagues and divisions — where teams would be split into three 10 team divisions based on geographical location — were also initially rumored as a part of this proposal. 

However, the newest proposal will have teams play in their home ballparks with no fans in attendance. I think myself — as well as fans everywhere — can agree this option is better than no baseball at all. A season beginning in July will most likely consist of 100 games with the playoffs beginning in October and possibly stretching into early December. 

Onto the side of bad news, it is looking very likely that the Minor League Baseball season will be completely canceled. While there has been no official confirmation, there have been several reports that minor league officials have hinted at a complete cancellation of their season.

Considering the majority of the MiLB relies heavily on ticket sales to support their organization, the cancellation of a season could mean the end of some of these teams. There has already been a proposal to eliminate 25% of the minor league ball clubs but this could end up happening prematurely due to the virus outbreak. 

With the possibility of no minor league season, this could also hinder the development of young players in farm systems of major league teams. The most likely option will be for these players to be a part of a league in Arizona, however, the number of players will be limited. This would presumably cause a large portion of minor league players’ careers to come to a close. 

It was also recently announced that the annual MLB draft will consist of only five rounds rather than the usual 40. Players who are undrafted will have the opportunity to sign with teams for just a $20,000 signing bonus which will most likely result in more players electing to go back to college. 

While we wait for the MLB to make its official return, ESPN has begun broadcasting the KBO — the top baseball league in South Korea. Their season started two weeks ago with no fans in attendance. The games have been entertaining and I highly recommend any baseball fan to check them out.