DAN BICKLEY

Could Arizona house all of MLB to revive, save its season?

Apr 2, 2020, 5:16 PM

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In the midst of chaos you’ll find opportunity. It was true for Sun Tzu when he wrote “The Art of War.” It’s true for Major League Baseball in 2020.

Look around. The sport has an aging demographic and a plodding product. They also have one of the greatest games ever invented.

What if they saved themselves in the midst of a pandemic? What if America’s pastime leads American sports into its future?

It could only happen in the Valley, where there are rising temperatures; 10 Cactus League stadiums; Phoenix Municipal Stadium, which houses ASU baseball; and Chase Field.

All 30 teams could headquarter in the Valley. Each could inhabit hotels that sit nearly vacant. Each could be assigned a local restaurant as its training table. Each would be assigned two team buses for transport in between stadiums.

Chase Field could be redecorated on the fly to fit the moment, to fill in the empty spaces; This venue will be dedicated to national broadcasts, outfitted with television cameras and a production crew that will televise three national games a day: 10 a.m. local time for East coast matchups (i.e., Boston vs. New York); 3 p.m. for Midwest affairs (St. Louis vs. Chicago); and 8 p.m. for West coast teams (Los Angeles vs. Arizona).

The Cactus League stadiums and Phoenix Muni will serve as satellite fields for the rest of the games, played without fanfare or fans, broadcast to their regional audiences. Players will remain sequestered, locked down in their free time, fever-tested daily.

Major League Baseball will attempt to start the 2020 season in a bubble, right here in the Valley, just like the NBA’s reported dalliance with Las Vegas. We will be Ground Zero for the first steps back, for a return to a new normal.

Starting times at outdoor venues can be readjusted as temperatures soar in June and July, the schedule pared to two games a day (8 a.m. and 8 p.m). But the stifling climate in Arizona is most foreboding for ticket-buying fans, and they are no longer part of the equation. Meanwhile, baseball is a stop, start and stand-around kind of sport. Well-trained athletes can play at a high level even during high temperatures.

Imagine the splash. The daring new venture would be ambrosia for diehard baseball fans. It would also attract a new audience, namely young sports fans giving baseball another chance out of curiosity and boredom. This is where the sport must seize the moment.

They can usher in a new era of robot umpires, using technology to call balls and strikes, reducing the human crowding near home plate.

They can speed up the game with strict new measures, from pitch clocks to three-pitch at-bats.

It’s a clean slate and a new world. Baseball will be freed from the chains of tradition. They can do anything they want to win over new fans, taking full advantage of a captive market.

Baseball has served this country before. In World War II, many stars played service ball, entertaining troops before they went off to battle. This is different, yet also the same.

It’s a time for baseball to light a path and lead the way, with the state of Arizona at the forefront. Sign me up.

Dan Bickley

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Could Arizona house all of MLB to revive, save its season?