Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) have released their new health and safety protocols for the 2021 season, with many of the changes influenced by the COVID-19 crisis.
The agreement between MLB and the MLBPA clears the way for an on-time start to spring training, with pitchers and catchers scheduled to report and begin workouts at facilities in Arizona and Florida next week. However, players must isolate for 5 days before they report to training.
When they report, players and other personnel will undergo an intake screening that includes a temperature check, a coronavirus test via nasal swab and a rapid antibody test. Once normal business begins, players will be subject to temperature and symptom checks daily, and they will have a coronavirus test at least every other day. They will undergo antibody testing at least once a month.
There is also an effort by the league to improve their contact tracing, and have introduced the Kinexon contact tracing device, the same that is used in the NBA, which will be worn at all times during training and travel and the data will be accessible to the league and players’ union.
“We were able to complete a successful and memorable 2020 season due to the efforts and sacrifices made by our players, Club staff and MLB employees to protect one another," said MLB.
"The 2021 season will require a redoubling of those efforts as we play a full schedule with increased travel under a non-regionalised format.
“We have built on last year’s productive collaboration between MLB and the Players Association by developing an enhanced safety plan with the consultation of medical experts, infectious disease specialists, and experts from other leagues. We all know the commitment it will take from each of us to keep everyone safe as we get back to playing baseball, and these enhanced protocols will help us do it together.”
There have been many other changes also, players will be subject to similar COVID-19 protocols and regulations as last season. One of the changes to last season will be the increased punishments for those found breaching regulation, with unpaid suspensions and forfeiture of salary just two of what could be introduced.
Rosters have also been allowed to expand to cater for the change with them now being allowed 26 players instead of 25, and in September 28 will be allowed.
The new rules will also see doubleheaders be shortened to two seven-inning games.
Although agreed now, the route to this destination wasn’t all plain sailing. Only last week, the player’s union rejected a proposal to delay the start of the season and to extend postseason for 2021. The MLB representatives were not happy with the unwillingness of the union to make a deal, however both have now come to an agreement.
Author: Abraham Adebayo