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Could baseball in a bubble work? Dr. Fauci thinks it could

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks at White House briefing with President Trump
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a regular at President Trump’s daily coronavirus briefings, said in an interview that baseball without spectators could work this season.
(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Baseball this summer? Get into the bubble, Dr. Anthony Fauci says.

Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a regular at President Trump’s daily coronavirus briefings, told Snapchat that baseball could be played this season despite the COVID-19 pandemic, without fans.

“There’s a way of doing that,” Fauci said in an interview released Wednesday. “Nobody comes to the stadium. Put [the players] in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled. ... Have them tested every single week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out.”

Major League Baseball acknowledged last week that playing its 2020 season in an Arizona “bubble” was one potential option. Under the plan, players would be isolated in hotels, traveling only to games at Chase Field, the 10 spring training ballparks in the Phoenix area, and other local ballparks.

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Angels star Mike Trout and his wife Jessica are expecting a son in August.

“What am I going to do when she goes into labor? Am I going to have to quarantine for two weeks after I come back? Obviously, I can’t miss that birth of our first child,” Trout told NBC Sports on Wednesday.

“There’s a lot of red flags. ... We want to get back as soon as we can, but obviously it’s got to be realistic. It can’t be sitting in our hotel rooms, just going from the field to the hotel room and not being able to do anything. I think that’s pretty crazy.”

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said at a news conference Tuesday that he is receptive to the idea and has discussed it with commissioner Rob Manfred.

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“Two words that would allow the country and the state of Arizona to know that things were headed back to normal would be, ‘Play ball,’” Ducey said.

The coronavirus outbreak has triggered cancellation of virtually all mass gatherings, including sporting events. On Tuesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said such events would be “unlikely” to be allowed in the state this summer. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti echoed Newsom and confirmed a Times report Wednesday on sporting events not likely being held in the city until 2021. “It’s difficult to imagine us getting together in the thousands anytime soon, so I think we should be prepared for that this year. ... I hope we can watch sporting events without audiences on TV,” Garcetti said.

A look at how sports leagues, including the NFL, MLB, MLS, NBA and NHL, are responding to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Arizona plan has raised concern that the frequent testing required for players, staff and hotel employees within the bubble — and the personal protective equipment needed to conduct it — would appear unseemly at a time hospitals, clinics and first responders are struggling to keep pace with demands for tests and equipment.

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MLB has considered whether to exclude the families of players. To include them within the bubble would greatly increase the demands for food, supplies and testing, but it might be the only way to persuade some players to participate.

“I’m not going to be away from my family and not see them for 4½ months,” Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw told SportsNet LA. “Cooper [his 3-month-old son] changes so much in one week, so to miss four months of his life right now, I’m just not going to do it.

“There’s a lot of things to figure out before I go quarantine myself with my team for four months.”

Said Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner: “For my category of guys, it’s easy. I’m married, but I don’t have any children. For the single guy or the guys with kids at home, that’s a lot tougher. You’re asking a lot more — to either be alone or not see your kids.”

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Turner said he would be happy to play all summer in Arizona, even outdoors, if that were the best option for a 2020 season.

Major League Baseball has distributed 10,000 blood tests for what researchers are calling the first large-scale national coronavirus antibody study.

“I’ll pack plenty of sunscreen and sanitizer,” he said jokingly.

The league would find it easier to sell the concept — to the players and to the public — with Fauci’s endorsement of it.

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Fauci said he would be excited to see his hometown team, the World Series champion Washington Nationals, play again. In saying why he thought fans might embrace the plan, he inadvertently used an unfortunate adjective.

“People say, you can’t play without spectators,” Fauci said. “Well, I think you’d probably get enough buy-in from people who are dying to see a baseball game.”


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