Major League Baseball (MLB) has been quick to get back in the swing of things following the outbreak of COVID-19, but not without significant changes.
Compared to other professional sports leagues, MLB has not been the most effective example of following proper COVID-19 safety measures. The season, which started on Thursday, July 23, has been riddled with postponements due to COVID-19 outbreaks. Players on the Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies have all tested positive as of Saturday, August 15.
However, many changes to the season organization and updates to safety precautions have been made in the hopes to lessen the spread of the virus. Each team will play 10 games against each of their four divisional opponents and 20 interleague matches in the same division. Postseason games will be organized into a 16-team tournament instead of the usual 10-team tournament.
At the beginning of the season, teams selected a 60-man pool of players from which they could choose a 30-man roster.
The MLB has also come out with a 2020 operations manual, which has an emphasis on contact tracing, quick testing, and minimizing contact as much as possible. Some examples of the precautions include teams not being allowed to eat at restaurants on road trips, shower at ballparks or change into their uniforms at the stadiums.
Along with the schedule changes, the actual rules of the game have been altered. Changes to the concept of a designated hitter, the extra innings rule, the allowance of players spitting or licking their fingers while playing have all been made.
Rulebook alterations are not the only changes in baseball that have made history this year. Although social and political activism is rare in MLB history, many MLB players have been active in recent Black Lives Matter protests.
On the opening day of the 2020 season, the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees both showed their support for the BLM movement when their players held a banner and then took a knee for 60 seconds of silence. On the same night, both the Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers stamped a BLM logo onto their fields’ pitcher’s mounds. Players on the Nationals, Yankees, Dodgers and San Francisco Giants all have worn BLM patches on their uniforms.
The protesting has received mixed responses, as some fans criticize the MLB for mixing politics with entertainment. Still, most teams remain dedicated to the cause.
The future of the 2020 MLB season is uncertain, as games have currently been postponed due to the recent COVID-19 cases on the Cincinnati Reds. However, one thing is clear: from rule modifications to the previously rare support of activism movements, change is always possible and likely right around the corner for MLB.
More information on the season and its schedule can be found at the MLB website.