If the Baltimore Orioles and the rest of the MLB gets back to playing, what happens on the field will look a bit different.
Fortunately for the Baltimore Orioles, the team does not have any coaches or managers over age 60. But, other teams do.
Because of the risks associated with COVID-19, the MLB’s precautions will change some of the rituals and coaching practices that take place before and during the games.
The first has to do with personal protective equipment. The players will not wear it on the field, but the coaching staff will. If you’ve seen any KBO games, the first-base and third-base coaches have gloves and masks on. You should expect to see this when the O’s hit the field.
According to Jayson Stark’s recent article in The Athletic, he shares one of the rules of the 2020 season:
"“First and Third Base Coaches should remain in or behind the Coach’s Box and shall not approach a baserunner, fielder or umpire on-field.”"
If you’ve ever watched a base coach during a game, they are constantly whispering in the ears of their players. The first-base coaches are timing the pitchers and silently giving cues whether or not to steal. The third-base coaches have their eyes all over the field, so they’ve got to be able to whisper to protect their baserunners from the experts guarding the base. If they can’t do this during 2020 games without masks, then you can bet they’ll do it with masks.
Another sure thing to disappear is the high-five at the corners. Players get regular pats on the back and high fives from their base coaches. But if they can’t whisper, they sure won’t be allowed to touch. Anthony Sanders and Jose Flores will clearly have to change the way they act on the field – and fans will notice it from their TV sets. We could see a whole new set of signs in 2020.
Fans and coaches can expect the umps will be watching the base coaches for violating these safety rules, too. Coach-interference calls are rare, but when it comes to safety of the players, umpires might be on high alert regarding leaving the coach’s box.
Stark also shared expectations with batting and fielding practice before games. In the 67-page manual on the 2020 season, a rule about equipment reads:
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"“All baseballs used for pre-game warmups and warmups between innings shall be discarded or disinfected prior to being used again.”"
The sheer number of baseballs used in pre-game warmups is astounding. There are buckets upon buckets of baseballs in batting cages, bullpens, and on the field. If you were to buy one official MLB baseball at a Rawlings store, you can expect to pay $16.95. Of course, the MLB gets a better deal than the average consumer. It’s tough to imagine how on Earth teams will be able to follow through on this rule. Maybe you’re thinking “They can give them to the fans” – but there won’t be any fans in attendance!
What this rule does mean is that the MLB will have to use significantly more balls during each warm-up. Instead of shagging and reusing balls, the players – especially pitchers – might have their own collection that they use while warming up. But, these aren’t single use straws, they’re baseballs – and it would be a shame to put them to waste.
We don’t know what is going to happen with baseball, but little glimpses at the 2020 rule book give us a taste of what is on the horizon.