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MLB pumps brakes on discussed plan to play all games in Arizona

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Major League Baseball issued a statement Tuesday acknowledging it has discussed the entire league descending on one location to restart the season with coronavirus-caused restrictions on the public still in place.

But the message also emphasized that no plan, including a discussed option of moving every team to Arizona, has been decided upon.

“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 statement read. “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 official, 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 coronavirus.”

Putting all 30 teams in the Phoenix area and playing in empty ballparks was among the ideas discussed Monday by Major League Baseball and the players’ association.

The sides held a telephone call to talk about paths forward for a season delayed by the new coronavirus pandemic, people familiar with the discussion told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because no details were announced.

Half of the MLB clubs hold spring training in Arizona, the other half in Florida.

Arizona’s advantage is 10 spring training ballparks plus the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field all within about 50 miles. Florida’s spring training ballparks are spread by as much as 220 miles.

But there are massive hurdles to overcome if such a plan would become a reality.

For one, MLB would need to work with health officials to determine a thorough testing plan for players placed in the Arizona baseball bubble that is efficient and does not take from stockpiles needed for public health.

Additionally, the league would need to get approval from players, who could be asked to separate from their families for a period of months if the MLB season were to start with public health restrictions in place.

With Arizona’s spring training facilities outside, the summer heat is another hurdle to consider.

The league also need to get approval from national, state and local levels to host games at the ballparks in Phoenix and adjacent cities.

Baseball’s season had been set to start March 26 but spring training was halted on March 12. After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended restricting events of more than 50 people for eight weeks, MLB said it would not open until mid-May at the earliest.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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