Major League Baseball is moving forward with its plans to execute a 60-game 2020 season amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Players began reporting to their respective ballparks this week. MLB announced the 60-game season, with Opening Day set for July 23 or 24.
The league has yet to release its official 2020 schedule, but teams will play games in their geographic region. With coronavirus cases surging in parts of the United States — especially in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas — it’s fair to wonder if MLB will be able to complete its season. Angels superstar outfielder Mike Trout has become the latest and most notable player to speak about his concerns playing during the COVID-19 outbreak. Trout, who turns 29 next month, is expecting his first child with his wife Jessica in August.
“Honestly, I still don’t feel that comfortable with the baby coming,” Trout told reporters via a media Zoom call Friday, including Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. “There’s a lot of things on my mind. I’m trying to be the safest and most cautious way to get through the season. It’s going to be tough. I’ve got to be really cautious these next couple weeks. I don’t want to test positive. I don’t want to bring it back to my wife. It’s a tough situation we’re in.”
Trout has still yet to make an official decision on whether he’ll be with the Angels for their 2020 season opener in three weeks.
“We’re playing it by ear,” Trout said to reporters, including USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “I think the biggest thing is this is our first child. I’ve got to be there. If I test positive, I can’t see the baby for 14 days. We would be upset. I’ve got to keep Jess safe. I’ve got to keep the baby safe. I have to be really cautious.”
When asked why he would play in the 2020 season at all, Trout responded: “I love baseball. I love playing this game. We all want to play.”
Joe Maddon, the Angels new manager, also spoke with reporters Friday via Zoom about the upcoming 2020 season being played amid the coronavirus pandemic. He told reporters, including The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya, that he spoke with the team in a Zoom call on Thursday, allowing Angels players to express their concerns, including Trout.
“Everybody’s talking about high-risk and those kinds of individuals opting out,” Maddon told Nightengale. “To me, the person that should opt out is the person who does not want to follow the protocols to a T at any age, at any risk. That hasn’t been promoted enough.”
While players (and managers, coaches, trainers, translators) are away from the ballparks and facilities, they are going to be expected to follow health and safety protocols on their own, and it’s seemingly the biggest vulnerability in MLB’s return-to-play plan. Individuals directly involved in the 2020 MLB season are encouraged to avoid crowded restaurants, bars and clubs. From the league’s health and safety manual:
MLB will not formally restrict the activities of Covered Individuals when they are away from Club facilities, but will expect the Covered Individuals on each Club to ensure that they all act responsibly. The careless actions of a single individual places the entire team (and their families) at risk, and the Covered Individuals on each Club should agree on their own off-field code of conduct for themselves and their family members to minimize the risk to others.
As part of MLB’s COVID-19 guidelines, players can decide to opt out at anytime. Mike Leake of the Diamondbacks, Ian Desmond of the Rockies and Nationals teammates Joe Ross and Ryan Zimmerman are among the group of players who have elected to sit out the 2020 season.
In MLB’s plan, high-risk players who decide to opt-out would receive both their full salary and service time for the season. Players who have high-risk family members may also decide to opt-out, but MLB would leave it up to teams to make the decision of whether or not they would receive salary or service time.
High-risk would include people who have heart disease, lung disease, cancer, high blood pressure or diabetes. Coronavirus is commonly considered a respiratory illness, but many of those who have tested positive can experience a wide range of different symptoms, including possible effects on the heart.