MLB cancels spring training, pushes back season in wake of coronavirus
Major League Baseball is suspending spring training in Arizona and Florida and will delay the start of the regular season by at least two weeks as fears of coronavirus are heightened, the league announced Thursday.
“MLB will continue to evaluate ongoing events leading up to the start of the season. Guidance related to daily operations and workouts will be relayed to clubs in the coming days,” The MLB press release read. “As of 4:00 p.m. (ET) today, forthcoming spring training games have been canceled, and 2020 World Baseball Classic Qualifier games in Tucson, Arizona have been postponed indefinitely.
“MLB and the clubs have been preparing a variety of contingency plans regarding the 2020 regular season schedule. MLB will announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time and will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible.”
The D-backs were next scheduled to play the Brewers at 1:10 p.m. Thursday, but that game was canceled due to rain prior to the MLB announcement.
“The safety of the public is the No. 1 concern of each of our ballparks,” Cactus League Executive Director Bridget Binsbacher said in a press release. “Following MLB’s decision to cancel the remaining spring training schedule in response to the coronavirus pandemic, we will support our facilities in their efforts to ensure the safety of the fans, teams, employees and media. We understand that many fans look forward to Cactus League games and we sympathize with those whose plans were impacted.”
The NBA and MLS are among those who have suspended their seasons, while the majority of college basketball conference tournament have been canceled entirely. The NHL has advised teams not to hold practices and meetings on Thursday.
Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus, immediately prompting the NBA to suspend its season indefinitely.
The Seattle Mariners had already issued a statement on Wednesday saying they were “working … on alternative plans” for games as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee banned large group gatherings. Reports said the team was considering playing its regular-season games in Arizona, where they have their spring training facility.
All MLB teams were in either Arizona or Florida for spring training on Thursday.
“This is a very real thing that’s circulating the globe, and we have to be mindful of it and we have to be careful,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said on March 9. “And we have responsibilities just like everybody else to be aware of the risks and the potential for the spread. And I’m not just worried for us, I’m worried for the fans, too.
“So as we’re interacting with the fans, who’s to say that we wouldn’t be transmitting something between fans? So it’s a tough needle to thread because we want to connect with our fans, they deserve that connection with us, we connect with the community whenever we can. But I think we have to start thinking of some mindful solutions.”
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, which declared a pandemic on Wednesday, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.