Major League Baseball has shut down spring training and elected to delay the start of the 2020 season at least two weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic. Given the nature and gravity of the outbreak, MLB — and the same can be said for the NBA, NHL, MLS, etc. — had no other choice.
That being said, the decision to shut down baseball for perhaps even longer than the original two-week delay of Opening Day might be advisable in light of the ominous observations made by a recently retired major leaguer.
Will Middlebrooks, who retired in January after a six-year MLB career in which he played for the Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers, pointed out in a tweet Friday morning how the coronavirus would likely run rampant through MLB clubhouses.
Hopefully no one in a baseball clubhouse has been infected… that would spread like wildfire. So much shared… think about how many guys lick fingers for grip on the baseball… strike 3 and fire it around the infield. This could be bad.— Will Middlebrooks (@middlebrooks) March 13, 2020
Middlebrooks later responded to a fan’s tweet about other issues that would make rapid transmission of COVID-19 incredibly likely.
Absolutely… I just gave one example of a million https://t.co/y9UXi3QpYb— Will Middlebrooks (@middlebrooks) March 13, 2020
Middlebrooks’ opinion about the environment in which baseball operates and the habits of players would lead to widespread transmission of COVID-19 is apt.
After all, locker rooms and clubhouses in professional sports have long been regarded as oversized Petri dishes. That explains in large part the decision by MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS to issue a joint statement earlier this week to announce that media and non-essential personnel would be denied access to those areas.
That was done before the above leagues decided to entirely shut down all operations until further notice, of course, and baseball without question would be highly susceptible to widespread transmission of COVID-19.
How such conditions, both inside the clubhouse and beyond, will impact MLB’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak and how it impacts when day-to-day operations resume remains to be seen.
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