MLB

MLB presents its idea of socially distant baseball to teams

MLB has put together 67-page first draft of social distancing and hygiene guidelines for team personnel to follow if there’s a 2020 season. The Associated Press got hold of the document and published some highlights Saturday.

There were a lot of highlights. Two immediate reactions:

— Good grief, no one’s going to remember all of these do’s and (mostly) don’ts.

— Some of the on-field social distancing measures, though well-intentioned, are going to be really challenging.

Three examples from the AP’s report:

Fielders are “encouraged to retreat several steps away from the baserunner” between pitches.

First and third base coaches are not to approach baserunners or umpires

(P)layers should not socialize with opponents.

And now for some more rapid reactions:

— First basemen are going to have to stay on the move as they shuttle between the bag and a few feet behind it when they’re holding runners. The middle infielders and third basemen won’t need to worry about this much.

— It’s a decent bet that some first base coaches will forget to stay away. They unconsciously sidle up to baserunners after almost every pitch as they watch the third base coach give signs.

— Old-school scolds might appreciate the return of the “No fraternizing” rule (hey, some levity can’t hurt).  

Some of the voluminous hygiene guidelines may produce chuckles and maybe head shakes, but they mostly make sense. Among them: No spitting, finger-licking, high-fives, fist bumps or hugs; limit throwing the ball around the infield; dress at home or the hotel and come to the park ready to play; not too many people in the showers after a game.

This reported guideline, though, was just confusing: “A ball will be thrown away after it is touched by multiple players.” That reads as though there will be a new ball for almost every pitch, when you consider pitches, foul balls, throws to bases and relays from the outfield. How many baseballs will be MLB need if that is indeed the case?

MLB has asked teams to offer their input by May 22, the AP reported.

“The document is designed to set minimum standards and identify best practices, but we have attempted to provide clubs with enough flexibility to achieve the desired health and safety objectives in a manner that is tailored to their particular circumstances, including ballpark configuration, location, and the nature of any local governmental regulations or restrictions,” deputy commissioner Dan Halem wrote in an accompanying e-mail to team owners and top executives.

Expect lots of input, because there’s so much to review. 

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