No player in any sport wants to play in front of no fans.
Few would want to play “home” games at a site other than his or her home stadium, ballpark or arena.
But when the coronavirus pandemic becomes a thing of the past and it’s determined that games can get going again, leagues likely will have to do things that once would have been inconceivable.
That includes Major League Baseball. And Yankees union rep Zack Britton said games without fans and games at neutral sites are among the many scenarios being discussed behind the scenes.
“Honestly, I think we could possibly need to find a neutral site for a little while because New York has been such a hotbed for this,” Britton said Thursday on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio. “And guys are open to that. I know there are sites they’ve already discussed. I’m not sure if I should even say that publicly, but I know that there’s four sites or four or five sites that are going to have to be added."
Arizona and Florida are among the states that have been mentioned as potential neutral sites for games, for obvious reasons that include spring training facilities already in place and more predictable weather than in other parts of the country. But with each of those states seeing an increase of coronavirus cases on a daily basis, which is the case pretty much nationwide, the practicality of that remains very much up in the air and impossible to plan.
As for playing in front of no fans, it’s something Britton experienced as a member of the Orioles on April 29, 2015, in an 8-2 victory over the White Sox. Major League Baseball decided that the game would be played without fans at Camden Yards, the result of rioting in the city of Baltimore after Freddie Gray died in police custody.
“All [of us are] on the same page to play as many games as we possibly can,” Britton said of talks between the players and owners. “And if we have to do that in empty stadiums for the safety of the public, then I think that’s the right move.”
Everything, industry insiders have said for weeks, is on the table. That includes the possibility of playing eight or nine games in a week (which might be accomplished with multiple doubleheaders, with those games lasting only seven innings), expanded rosters well beyond the current 26, a man placed on second base if a game goes into extra innings, the regular season extending deep into October and a World Series at a neutral site in late November.
“We’re going to have those talks soon,” Britton said, noting that regardless of any agreements reached, the virus ultimately will have the final word.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter till the virus gets under control and cities and people are able to go back to everyday lives,” he said, “let alone watching baseball.”