Old faces in new places: Baseball spring training opens amid pandemic with new protocols


Photo courtesy of Adam Glanzman/MLB Photos

By Mitchell Ross

A slew of stars will be swinging in new cities come Opening Day Apr. 1, but baseball fans will not have to wait that long as spring camps opened for all 30 teams last week while Spring Training kicks off with fourteen games on Feb. 28.

The offseason really caught fire when the San Diego Padres traded for former Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell and All-Star Yu Darvish from the Rays and Cubs. Both pitchers will be wearing a new uniform this spring.

Perennial All-Star SS, Francisco Lindor, was traded from the only organization he ever played to the Mets. Lindor departed Cleveland in the last year of his contract before potentially hitting the free-agent market.

Nolan Arenado, two years into a massive 8-year $260 million deal with the Colorado Rockies, was dealt to St. Louis to play for the Redbirds after relations soured between him and the Rockies brass.

With star faces in new places, spring training 2021 will look different.

Still, it will feel and operate differently due to new COVID-19 protocols and restrictions as laid out in the Health and Safety Protocols for the 2021 season provided by MLB.

Each club was administered a comprehensive operations manual for the season.

Last season was a test run to see if a major professional sports league could operate under a pandemic. This season will refine the practices from 2020 and implement new procedures to ensure the players’ safety, on-field staff, off-field support staff and crew.

Part of the new health and safety protocols includes a mandatory five-day quarantine before any player or staff reports to spring training sites as part of the new intake screening procedures.

Team members were not permitted to access club facilities until intake screening results were reported.

While in camp or during the regular season, players and staff “may not attend indoor gatherings of 10 or more people, indoor restaurants, bars and lounges, fitness and wellness centers, entertainment venues, gaming venues (e.g., casinos) or any other activity that is prohibited by state or local governments,” according to MLB.

While in camp and during the regular season and playoffs, players will be administered PCR testing at least every other day. Daily temperature checks and symptom screening will be required.

Players and coaches will be required to wear Kinexon contact tracing devices, “while in Club facilities, during Club-directed travel and while engaged in team activities including group workouts and practices,” as stated by MLB.

All protocols are in place for the health and safety of the players, coaches, and support staff that put a product on the field for fans to enjoy.

Individuals who fail to meet these protocols will be subject to potential discipline including, “suspension or forfeiture of salary for days spent away from the Club while in mandatory self-isolation or quarantine resulting from the violation,” per MLB.

MLB will bring back some rule changes from last season to mitigate potential COVID-19 outbreaks and possible game cancellations as they return to a full 162-game schedule.

7-inning doubleheader games will return in addition to having a runner on second base to start extra innings. Both rules are in place to speed up the pace of play and shorten the overall game time. Also, the extra-inning rule can decrease the number of pitchers needed to complete a game.

Fans are excited to see baseball return in a semi-normal fashion. Despite the new rules and protocols, they look forward to the first pitch of exhibition games on Feb. 28.