Sports Business Writer
Baseball is finally back,but not to the full extent we remember it. In a country still put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic, the season will look a little different than in years past. For the 2020 campaign we saw a shortened 60 game season, dropped from the 162-game season we would see in a COVID-free world. The MLB has approved the 2021 season to be a full-length season, but it comes with a few restrictions. The MLB has conducted and sent out a 108-page safety manual to all teams, expressing the new and updated health protocols for the season.
For one, the COVID-19 vaccine will be a suggestion to players- but not a requirement. The vaccine produced by Pfizer, Moderna and other pharmaceutical companies is a great source of controversy and division amongst the country. Half the country waits eager to receive their vaccination, the other half is avoiding it at all costs- so making the vaccine optional for the 2021 MLB season seems like the best idea to get as many players as possible to opt-in to this season.
In addition to the optional vaccines, players and other on-field personnel are required to wear electronic tracing wristbands at all times from the start of Spring Training to the end of the season. Players and personnel who dissent from this issue are subject to harsh discipline from the MLB and the MLB Player’s Association. The device from the brand Kinexon can detect everyone you have come in contact with while wearing the device. If one of the people you have come in contact with tests positive, the device will alert you that you could be at risk and need to self-isolate. Before these devices, players and staff would never know if they came in contact with someone that tested positive until it was too late. The mandatory wristband device will be crucial in how the league runs smoothly amidst this pandemic.
The league’s lone Canada-based team, the Toronto Blue Jays, will be having their home games in Florida to reduce a large amount of cross-country travel. Last season the Blue Jays played their season in Buffalo, NY at the site of one of their minor league teams. In addition to other safety measures to be carried over from last season, teams will only be allowed to travel with 26 men on their active roster, a decrease from the usual 40-man roster.
In the 2020 season, 21 of the 30 teams have had at least one positive case within their staff. The league has observed what those 9 covid-free teams have done over the season and is now implementing those rules for all teams in the 2021 season. The MLB is considered “America’s Pastime” so it is obviously a top priority of many people within the league to get the game up and running again. Play Ball!
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