Back On The Field
Sports have been on hiatus since mid-March. Baseball is no exception and for fans’ sakes shouldn’t be. But baseball’s dimensions and style of play could make it easier for it to be the first team sport to be back… on radio and television at least.
It appears social distancing is going to be a thing for awhile and that is the primary reason why basketball and football –with large, very-sweaty men breathing all over each other– are problematic.
But baseball is much different, especially on defense. The pitcher-to-catcher distance is 10-times the current restriction. Infielders are closer together but are still 30 feet apart, and still farther than six feet even with a defensive shift. Outfielders often are so far apart they have to send each other texts during the game just to say hi.
The closest contact any two people have are the umpire and the catcher and that could easily be resolved by not having an umpire behind home plate, or by having the umpire ten feet back. He or she could still call plays at the plate. The umpire could also move into an infield position behind the pitcher, much like how some lower levels of Little League are called.
Mound visits would be socially-distant. There’s not a whole lot that goes on during those anyway and even if the other team could hear what they’re whispering, the likelihood of that giving them any real advantage is minimal. The Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park and Boston Red Sox’ Fenway would still be searched before every game for hidden microphones and drones would be prohibited. Not saying, just saying.
As for the offense, the biggest problem with social distancing is a dozen guys in a dugout. Rather than making players sign an agreement to not socialize off the field, I guess you could let everyone in the dugout and clubhouse at once, but it would make more sense to let half the team, let them change, and let the other half enter. The first row of seats would be used for players while it’s their team’s turn to bat.
The most important person on the team? The person who keeps everyone stocked with hand sanitizer. Gloves, catchers gear, bats, bases and balls would be sanitized before every game. There are plays at the plate and stolen base attempts and throws to first where players, feet, hands and gloves will come in contact. Masks/face coverings and uniforms would be washed daily.
As for fans, I don’t how you keep people from breathing on each other considering stadiums have their own weather systems, even if you put people two seats and rows apart.
But until the virus has passed, we can still have games on television and radio and I can guarantee ratings would be through the roof.
Couple other rules, though. No dipping. No spitting. No one-finger Texas nose blows. That means you, Madison Bumgarner.
It can be done.
As a former Little League and High School umpire I don’t think calling pitches from the infield or ten feet back would work. You just can’t get the right perspective on breaking balls. I would say just mask the ump-you could put the clear shield doctors use over his mask. That or go to the technology they use on TV to call balls and strikes. I guess the era of chewing and spitting tobacco is gone for ever, thankfully!
If I can tell a strike from a ball on television from the centerfield cam, could I not from the infield?