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MLB, MLBPA considering playing all games in Arizona

Chase Field, home of Major League Baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association are discussing a potential rescheduling plan to stage games for all 30 clubs in empty ballparks in the Phoenix, Arizona, area, according to multiple reports. 

In the latest effort to address the ramifications of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the plan under discussion between the league and union is to stage games without fans at the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field, the 10 facilities that comprise the Cactus League that is half of MLB’s Spring Training, and perhaps other facilities in the Phoenix area. Many of the Cactus League facilities there have been going through extensive renovations in recent years. 

The idea, though still in an early stage, would involve the sequestering of players, coaches, and other essential personnel in local hotels, and adhering to strict isolation. Conceptually, the idea is similar to one the National Basketball Association is reportedly considering to play its postseason entirely in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The league and union held a call on April 6 to discuss the possibility further.

Discussions for the MLB-MLBPA plan are centered on a potential return to action as soon as sometime next month. But there remain numerous stumbling blocks on a logistical front. Such a plan, in addition to needing full support from health authorities, would require players and other personnel to support the plan, both in regard to assuming any potential health risk, as well as agreeing to be separated from their families for an indefinite period. 

There is also the matter of consuming Covid-19 tests and other resources that could be diverted to the health care system to deal with the pandemic.

And if there was a resumption of play in the near term, there would likely be various rules modifications, such as a temporary elimination of mound visits from catchers and coaches, to help enable additional social distancing. 

Still, the move would bring the league back to action, and get it closer its typical 162-game season. US President Donald Trump has been particularly eager to get the country’s pro sports properties resumed, and discussed that notion this past weekend with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and other US sports property executives.

MLB for now, like other major sports properties, is following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention avoid the staging of any mass gatherings until at least mid-May.

 The league and union in the interim reached a critical deal to address a variety of pandemic-related logistics, including how players would be paid during the hiatus and the accrual of service time.