The 2020 MLB season gets underway this evening despite the ongoing civil unrest and the coronavirus crisis. After months of unsuccessful negotiations between the league and the player’s association, Commissioner Rob Manfred mandated a 60-game season.
On the surface, it appears rosters have been set and teams are ready to take the field. Looming in the background, however, are some concerning questions that have no definitive answers.
As the World Series Champion Washington Nationals prepare to host the New York Yankees, the Toronto Blue Jays are still searching for a home base.
A report that the team from Canada would play their home games at PNC Park in Pittsburgh surfaced on Tuesday. Although it appeared the Blue Jays had locked in a home field, Pennsylvania’s department of health denied their request.
“In recent weeks, we have seen a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in southwestern Pennsylvania,” state secretary of health Dr. Rachel Levine said.
“To add travelers to this region for any reason – including for professional sports events — risks residents, visitors, and members of both teams. We know that this virus does not discriminate, and can even make professional athletes very sick. We are committed to protecting the health and well-being of all Pennsylvanians.”
The Blue Jays went looking for a new home location after the Canadian government denied its request to host opponents at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. The team is now considering traveling to the home site of opposing teams and act as the home team.
Other alternatives include Buffalo’s Sahlen Field, Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and their spring training facility in Florida. The Blue Jays first home game is July 29 against the Washington Nationals.
MLB is offering its players a choice between two social justice patches to wear on their jerseys on Opening Day, sources told ESPN’s Howard Bryant. One patch will read “United for Change,” while the other will say “BLM.”
Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen and former player Curtis Granderson have been the driving force behind the project.
Prior to the league’s decision to offer the patches, players were organizing a unified message separate from MLB. Bryant said that “back-channel discussions” turned the independent protest into a “negotiated, managed response sanctioned by the league.”
Additionally, a Black Lives Matter/MLB stencil will appear on the pitcher’s mound during the opening weekend games, the Nationals organization announced Wednesday. The statement said all teams will have the option to display the imaging on their mounds.