Report: High-Fiving, Spitting Ban Among Changes MLB Could Make amid COVID-19

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A rain-covered logo is seen at Fenway Park before Game 1 of the World Series baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

If and when the 2020 MLB season, which has been delayed since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, starts up this year, a number of changes to the league’s protocols and format reportedly could be in store.

Jon Heyman of MLB Network detailed some of the possible adjustments: “Limited travel, no x-country flights, more divisional play, expanded rosters, taxi squads, expanded playoffs, more experiments (runner on 2B in extra innings?), more doubleheaders, fewer off days, high-fiving/spitting discouraged or forbidden.” 

Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer also referenced the possibility on Thursday in reference to the Korea Baseball Organization, which began play this week and has new rules in place in light of the pandemic.

“MLB could adopt the KBO’s virus-related rules against high-fiving and spitting; coaches and umpires could wear masks on the field. But KBO players are still getting daily temperature checks and have access to testing if they develop symptoms,” Lauber wrote.

If the KBO ends up being a barometer for how MLB’s return may initially look, then fans will not be in the stands. KBO does have cheerleaders and drum squads, but they must wear masks.

On the media side, interviews and press conferences would also look far different. Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News provided images of a press conference on KBO’s Opening Day Tuesday:

Jeeho Yoo @Jeeho_1

That’s the view from 3rd base dugout at Jamsil Stadium, as we scribes/grunts wait to interview 1 designated player from winning team. No more free-for-all dugout access, pregame and postgame alike, during the pandemic. Not sure if things will ever go back to way they were before

He also noted that media members had to socially distance in line before getting their temperatures checked upon arrival at the stadium.

Yoo also equated the scene at the field to that of a golf tournament:

Jeeho Yoo @Jeeho_1

First pitch in the #KBO opening day game between LG Twins and Doosan Bears in Seoul. Notice how quiet it is before the delivery. Almost like a golf tournament. https://t.co/Zk069TmF4o

Coincidentally, the only crowdless MLB game in recent history included commentary from Gary Thorne speaking in the style of a golf commentator to capture the scene at Oriole Park in Camden Yards.

Heyman also reported that the best-case scenario for MLB’s return would be early July based on COVID-19’s spread and testing capabilities but that “MLB and [the] players union will resume talks about return scenarios and potential dates next week.”

Fans will simply be glad to see MLB back if it does return this summer, but early signs show that the viewing experience will look vastly different at the start.

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