MLB News: MLB sends 67 page health initiative to the Players Union, details

William Parlee
New York Yankees
Feb 23, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA;New York Yankees right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27), first baseman Greg Bird (33), center fielder Aaron Hicks (31), shortstop Didi Gregorius (18) and teammates stand on the field as they are introduced before the game against the Detroit Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees and fans throughout baseball eagerly await the beginning of a baseball season. MLB and the Players Union continue to negotiate terms to begin a baseball season for 2020.  In the latest move to break the deadlock over health concerns and financial matters, the MLB has sent a 67-page document concerning health and safety protocols that MLB will put in place to protect baseball players.

The operations manual for the abbreviated 2020 season, covers medical and testing protocols for COVID-19, spring training, facility protocols, on-field operations, league operations, and transactions, travel, and player and staff education.  The details of the manual have been revealed by The Atlantic, Bob Costas, among others.

On March 12 all baseball operations came to a halt, including spring training, and with that halt came the announcement that the regular MLB season for baseball would be delayed by two weeks.  That was more than two months ago.  Still, there is no baseball and the negotiations to start the season are ongoing with the owners agreeing to the plan, but the Players Association  (MLBPA) to date has failed to accept the plan.



Two major stumbling blocks seem to be causing concern.  One that has been quite public, the plan calls for revenue sharing that the Players Union Executive Director ex-Yankee Tony Clark sees as a salary cap, something the players have rejected since the 1970s.  The other issue less public are concerns about player safety.  Some calling the risk very high.  The MLB healthy initiative is designed to address those concerns.

Here is a brief summary of the protocols outlined in the document.

Testing procedures

Regular testing for all players, managers, coaches, and umpires, plus a limited number of essential staff members who come into close proximity with players. All MLB players must undergo “intake screening” upon arriving at spring training. The screening will take place at multiple locations and at staggered times. It will consist of a temperature check with a contactless thermometer and body fluid and blood samples. Any individual who tests positive is instructed to self-quarantine and gets treated accordingly.

Asymptomatic individuals will undergo temperature checks and symptom screens at least twice daily. All individuals will undergo testing multiple times per week, with results taking approximately 24 hours to report.  Players with symptoms will receive instant reports. Each club must maintain a dedicated testing area in its spring training site and MLB ballpark, as well as a dedicated isolation area where an individual who develops symptoms or learns of a positive result can isolate pending relocation to home or medical facility. Before entering a club facility, individuals will get temperatures checked and complete a short symptom and exposure questionnaire.

• Clubs must take the following steps to minimize potential transmission:

  • Identify all players and other employees who have had close contact and closely monitor them.
  • Team physician may determine some or all of those who should get tested.
  • Immediate cleaning and disinfecting of all club-controlled areas.
  • Reinforce the importance of hygiene.

Individuals that test positive will self-isolate.  MLB clubs and players will be in contact with local health officials.  There will be contact tracing and high-risk individuals will have additional precautions.

Spring training protocols

  • Training facilities will be limited to 50 players.
  • Reporting dates will be staggered.
  • Workouts will be staggered.
  • Other facilities encouraged for workouts and games.
  • Workouts should be five players or less
  • Workout in small groups in different areas of the facility.
  • Large group or gameplay staggered throughout the day
  • Heat concerns to be addressed by 7 and 9 am starting times.
  • The number of games allowed will be limited.
  • Protocols that address heat concerns for umpires.
  • Minimum standards will be maintained for cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Processes will be in place for safely distributing meals, medicine, etc.
  • Communal water and sports drink coolers/jugs are prohibited.
  • Hand washing and sanitation stations in multiple locations.
  • No MLB personal contact, high fives, hugs, etc.
  • Players and other on-field personnel should wash or sanitize their hands after each half-inning or the handling of equipment.
  • Clubs to encourage social distancing, meeting outdoors, or virtual.
  • Lockers to be 6 feet apart, vacant space to be used if necessary
  • No in facilities showering.  Shower at home or hotel.
  • The bullpen and batting cage activities outside when possible.
  • Only essential players in the dugout.  Others separated in other areas.
  • Meals must be distributed in individually packaged containers or bags, in takeout form.
  • Uses of saunas, steam rooms, hydrotherapy pools and cryotherapy chambers are prohibited.

On-Field Operations

  • Changes to rules for the 2020 season are pending.
  • Rather than an exchange of lineup cards, lineups will be put into an application.
  • When the ball is out of play or in between pitches, fielders are encouraged to retreat several steps away from the baserunner.
  • Catchers are permitted to step on the grass toward the mound to give signs if he needs to stand to relay signs to infielders.
  • Non-playing personnel must wear masks at all times in dugout.
  • Spitting is prohibited.

The on-field rule will be greatly expanded in the 67-page protocol.

Team Travel

  • MLB teams should control their environments as much as possible.
  • Public transportation or use of Uber type discouraged.
  • Whenever possible, teams are to fly into smaller airports with assigned fixed airline crews.
  • Players at hotels will not be quarantined but must receive advanced approval if leaving the hotel.
  • No visitors unless immediate family, others discouraged.
  • At hotels, no buffet-style meals, players not to use cash.
  • Upon leaving hotels, no front desk interaction.
  • At the team’s home park, players may stay at their desired locations, practicing safe rules and avoiding public places.
  • Players, coaches, umpires, and all baseball personnel to undergo the COVID-19 education program before returning to work.

The MLB rules may seem like overkill and overly complicated, but the above are just the basics.  The 67-page document details how to do everything that players and personnel will face on a daily basis.  MLB wants to avoid infection by anyone in baseball operations to avoid a team shutdown.  It appears that the entire document has not been made public if it is you will find a link to view the document on EmpireSportsMedia.com.