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MLB lines up July season start

Major League Baseball (MLB) has set out plans to commence its delayed 2020 regular season on either July 23 or July 24 in empty stadia, seemingly ending months of acrimony between itself and players’ union the MLBPA over how best to stage the campaign amid COVID-19.

MLB’s 2020 season was due to have commenced on March 26, but will now consist of a 60-game regular season leading into the playoffs. The regular season was due to have 162 games over 186 days, and the new schedule will be MLB’s shortest since 1878.

The announcement yesterday (Tuesday) followed confirmation that the MLBPA had accepted the health and safety protocols that will guide MLB’s return to play and that players will be able to report for training by July 1. MLB said it is working with a variety of public health experts, infectious disease specialists and technology providers on a “comprehensive approach” that aims to facilitate a safe return.

The proposed regular season schedule will largely feature divisional play, with the remaining portion of each club’s games against their opposite league’s corresponding geographical division in order to mitigate travel. The vast majority of clubs are expected to conduct Spring Training at the ballparks in their primary home cities, as the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Florida and Arizona have resulted in all spring training facilities to be closed for deep cleaning.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said: “Major League Baseball is thrilled to announce that the 2020 season is on the horizon. We have provided the Players Association with a schedule to play 60 games and are excited to provide our great fans with baseball again soon.”

From a stadium perspective, Texas Rangers have been forced to postpone the opening of Globe Life Field due to the pandemic. The new state-of-the-art stadium (pictured), which has been built across the road from the team’s former Globe Life Park home, had been due to open on March 15 with a Chris Stapleton concert.

The Rangers had also been scheduled to play the St. Louis Cardinals in an exhibition game at the venue on March 23 before playing the Los Angeles Angels in its first home regular-season fixture on March 31.

Since that point, the Rangers have sought to utilise Globe Life Field by hosting a series of drive-up concert experiences at the ballpark.

Image: Texas Rangers