Baseball to restart, athletes heading back to training, players union says

Games are set to begin in late July after spring training was shut down on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Brett Gardner of the New York Yankees at bat against the New York Mets at Yankee Stadium in New York on June 11, 2019.
Brett Gardner of the New York Yankees at bat against the New York Mets at Yankee Stadium in New York on June 11, 2019.Mike Stobe / Getty Images

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By David K. Li

Batter up! Baseball is coming back.

The Major League Baseball Players Association announced Tuesday that players were returning to training in anticipation of a coronavirus-abbreviated 60-game season.

"All remaining issues have been resolved and Players are reporting to training camps," the association said Tuesday night on Twitter.

Players were expected to report for training by July 1, according to the league.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday night he anticipates a July 23 or 24 start to the truncated season.

Since the early 1960s, a regular MLB season has consisted of 162 games

The league was working out details of a 60-game schedule with the players' union. "The vast majority of Major League Clubs are expected to conduct training at the ballparks in their primary home cities," the league said.

The announcement by MLB came while more players continue to test positive for the virus — at least seven on the Philadelphia Phillies alone.

This season, competition will revert to more regional play that will keep teams closer to home to reduce travel and potential exposure.

"The proposed schedule will largely feature divisional play, with the remaining portion of each Club’s games against their opposite league’s corresponding geographical division (i.e., East vs. East, Central vs. Central and West vs. West), in order to mitigate travel," the league said.

The games are expected to be played in empty ballparks.

The last MLB game played behind closed doors was April 29, 2015, at Camden Yards in Baltimore. The city was rocked by civil unrest that week, as protesters filled city streets to demonstrate against police brutality, following the death of Freddie Gray.

But still, this year's action is sure to cheer up millions of sports-starved Americans while setting the stage for labor unrest in a year and a half.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Tuesday's announcement appeared to rescue a fraction of the 2020 season while adding fuel to simmering labor strife between players and owners. The current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021 season.

Weeks after spring training was called off in March, owners and the union agreed that players would be paid a prorated part of their 2020 salaries, based on the number of regular season games that are eventually played.

But since then, the union has accused owners of stalling the restart so they could pay a smaller proportion of salaries while scoring full postseason TV revenue — which is not shared with labor.

Players have been demanding that MLB schedule an earlier start. The union pushed a popular social media campaign, #WhenAndWhere, urging Manfred to tell them immediately when and where to report for preseason training.