Major League Baseball would like to start the season the first week of July. On the first business day after the league released a 67-page protocol for handling health and safety issues, the governors of California, New York, Texas and Colorado all said teams would be welcome to play ball in their states.
Games would not be open to fans, at least for the first part of the season.
Newsom, speaking at a news conference in Sacramento, said that “pro sports, in that first week or so of June, without spectators, and modifications … can begin to move forward.” He said he has spoken with “league representatives from all the major league sports.”
The NFL season is not scheduled to start until September. The NBA, NHL and Major League Soccer each is exploring how to resume their seasons, but none of those leagues has publicly issued a detailed health and safety protocol.
It is unclear whether those leagues would prefer its teams to return in home venues this season, in California or elsewhere. MLS has considered playing all its games within an Orlando, Fla., bubble; the NBA has explored similar options for Las Vegas and Orlando; the NHL is looking into what Commissioner Gary Bettman said Monday were “probably eight or nine different places” to host groupings of teams.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has recently lobbied Newsom and other governors, assuring them the league could obtain the necessary coronavirus tests without depriving the local community. Manfred also has arranged to convert the Utah laboratory used for minor league drug tests into a facility designated to process coronavirus tests.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said he had spoken with Manfred on Monday.
“I think their protocols look really good,” Polis told the Athletic, “and we’re certainly excited to get them going as soon as they’re ready to go.”
Newsom, exactly one week earlier, stopped well short of endorsing the MLB plan to play fan-free games in home ballparks.
“We’ll see where we will be in July,” he said last week.
MLB officials declined to say whether the league’s protocol might have addressed any concerns raised by Newsom.
In his news conference Monday, Newsom said he would work with county health officials in ensuring that leagues would agree to “deep conditions, deep modifications, deep stipulations, in terms of protecting not only the players but more broadly their support staff.”
The state is expected to provide guidance on those restrictions “in the next couple of weeks,” said Kate Folmar, deputy secretary of external affairs for the state’s Health and Human Services agency. Folmar declined to say whether the MLB protocol had satisfied Newsom’s concerns.
Folmar said “the ultimate decision” on whether to allow games would rest with each county, meaning in theory the Angels could be allowed to play at Angel Stadium while the Dodgers could be barred from playing at Dodger Stadium.
The MLB plan, still subject to negotiation with the players’ union, calls for training camp to begin in mid-June, either at a team’s home ballpark or at its spring training site.
California, New York, Texas and Colorado are home to 10 of the 30 major league clubs for spring training. The governors of Arizona and Florida have said any team that cannot play at its regular home is welcome to play at their spring home. All 30 teams train in either Arizona or Florida.