MLB weighing up Phoenix model for return to action

Major League Baseball (MLB) is reportedly considering a plan to stage all of its games in the Phoenix area as it weighs up its options to begin the 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MLB season had been due to start on March 26 but this has been pushed back until mid-May at the earliest due to COVID-19. MLB teams and the league’s players’ association held a call yesterday (Monday) to discuss potential plans.

The Associated Press, citing sources familiar with the discussion, reported that the plans include placing all 30 teams in Phoenix, Arizona and playing games in empty stadia. No details have yet been finalised and the AP’s sources said this solution would still have a number of obstacles to overcome.

With half of the league’s clubs holding spring training bases in Arizona, Phoenix would appear to be a logical location for a potential season-starter.

Chase Field (pictured), home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, could be used, while the state also has an additional 10 spring training ballparks that could serve as host venues.

Following the report, MLB issued a statement today (Tuesday) to clarify that no decision has been reached on a Phoenix proposal, with the league clarifying that it is considering a number of options.

“MLB has been actively considering numerous contingency plans that would allow play to commence once the public health situation has improved to the point that it is safe to do so,” the league said.

“While we have discussed the idea of staging games at one location as one potential option, we have not settled on that option or developed a detailed plan. While we continue to interact regularly with governmental and public health officials, we have not sought or received approval of any plan from federal, state and local officials, or the Players Association.

“The health and safety of our employees, players, fans and the public at large are paramount, and we are not ready at this time to endorse any particular format for staging games in light of the rapidly changing public health situation caused by the coronavirus.”

ESPN reported that the Arizona plan would see players, coaches and essential team personnel stay in isolation at hotels, only travelling to and from the stadium. The report added that the return date could be scheduled for May if certain assurances can be reached, although a June opening day could be more achievable.

Meanwhile, no decision has yet been reached on when the NBA basketball league will return to action, with commissioner Adam Silver saying it is too early to say.

The NBA suspended its season indefinitely last month after a Utah Jazz player contracted COVID-19. The league still needs to hold its remaining regular-season games and end-of-season play-offs.

Although Silver is still hopeful of finishing the season, he admitted that no decision is imminent on when it can return. “Essentially, what I’ve told my folks over the last week is that we just should accept that, at least for the month of April, we won’t be in a position to make any decisions,” he said. “And I don’t think that necessarily means on May 1 we will be.”

It has been reported by Sports Illustrated that the NBA is exploring the feasibility of staging its entire postseason in Las Vegas. SI, citing league sources, said Vegas is the only city the NBA is currently giving serious thought to with regards to staging a quarantined event in one location.

The NBA’s end-of-season play-offs had been due to begin on April 18 and run until June.

Silver, who was speaking on the NBA’s Twitter account, added: “When we initially shut down we were calling it a hiatus or a pause, there was a notion of 30 days because there wasn’t any of the widespread view at that point that our country would in essence be entirely shut down over the next several weeks. The fact is now sitting here today I know less, in a way, than I did then.”

Image: Arizona Diamondbacks