Baseball is Back


Siddharth Karthikeya, Staff Writer

Major League Baseball (MLB) is back, baby! As of Feb. 28, the 2021 Baseball Spring Training games has commenced. With 14 games between 24 teams, players will undoubtedly enjoy being back on the field for the first time since the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series last October.

Like usual, spring training will continue up until early April when opening day comes around, which is currently set for Apr. 1. However, baseball fans and officials hope things go better this year than they went in 2020.

In July 2020, 58 players and staff members tested positive for COVID-19 in spring training, giving a rocky start to last year’s baseball season. Teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Reds were among many that had outbreak scares in the early stages of the season.

In addition, several star players like David Price, Ryan Zimmerman, and Lorenzo Cain weren’t comfortable playing baseball for safety reasons, resulting in holes in rosters and disappointed fans.

But this year, the MLB assures teams there’s a clearer, safer, and more organized plan for 2021 baseball. So how exactly will the MLB guarantee a safe playing environment?

With frequent Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) screening, periodic quarantine periods, and strict safety measures for celebrations and team bonding, the MLB has pretty much thought of everything to ensure staff and player safety.

The arrival of vaccines also adds another tool officials can utilize in preventing the spread of COVID-19 amongst players and staff. But since young athletes make up most of the player demographic, it’s projected that the majority of players won’t be eligible for vaccinations until late March.

When it comes to fan safety, there’s a similar plan set in place. Pod seating, limited attendance, and strict social distancing guidelines will be enforced for fans in attendance. So far, Arizona and Florida are the first two states to permit fan attendance for spring training but other states are expected to follow suit.

But not everything is good news as there are still uncertainties that require ironing out. These mainly center around how confident players are in MLB safety protocols and whether or not they’re willing to take the risk to play the game they love.

Like last year, players have been given the opportunity to opt out with pay if they’re considered “high-risk.” When players choose to do this, it’s often because they have pre-existing health conditions or their family members do. Players that are not considered high-risk are also allowed to opt out, but they will not receive pay.

Although opting out is understandable, it’s hard on fans not seeing their favorite player out on the field and it’s hard on teams which rely on certain players to perform certain roles.

All baseball fans can do now is hope for smooth sailing and a whole lot of baseball this coming season. Knock on wood and gather your good luck charms because with the way this past year has gone, we’re going to need all the luck we can get.


Photo courtesy of SACBEE.COM