MLB ballparks empty as coronavirus weighs on

MLB fan on baseball season: The show should go on

Atlanta Braves fan Philip Wolfe discusses the possibility of the MLB suspending its season over coronavirus fears.

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ARLINGTON, Texas — There will be no hot dogs on the grill, no beer on tap, no vendors in the stands selling peanuts and Cracker Jack.

The shiny new stadium deep in the heart of Texas will still be waiting for its first Rangers game. Instead of warming up for his debut with the New York Yankees after a record $324 million, nine-year contract, Gerrit Cole is playing catch with his wife at home.

Ticket windows are closed at Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals baseball team, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)


With the start of the Major League Baseball season indefinitely on hold because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, ballparks will be empty Thursday on what was supposed to be opening day.

“You’re used to seeing people run all over the place. We have over 200 people (who work) at the park,” said Roger Bossard, the groundskeeper in his 54th year with the Chicago White Sox. “Certainly, it’s eerie when no one’s around. You walk around the hallways or underneath the stands there, and there’s nobody there — but understandably.”

From Baltimore to Miami in the east, San Diego to Seattle in the west — and 11 other cities that would have hosted season openers Thursday — there will be no games, or at the remaining 15 MLB stadiums, for at least a couple of more months.

An empty Angel Stadium of Anaheim is shown in Anaheim, Calif., on March 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

By then, when the weather will be warmer, the Rangers will be able to stay out of the heat by closing the retractable roof at their $1 billion-plus stadium, the only new major league ballpark opening this season.


After the postponement of a Chris Stapleton concert that was to be the inaugural event at Globe Life Park on March 14, only three days after an open house that went on as scheduled, the Rangers were supposed to play an exhibition game there this week. Their home opener was set for next Tuesday after a season-opening series in Seattle.

“The stadium was 100 percent ready to go,” said Casey Rapp, GM of the new Rangers stadium for Delaware North Sportservice, which also oversees concessions for 10 other MLB ballparks. “It’s the little things that we were trying to make perfect.”

While there was plenty of time to finish construction of Globe Life Park, Rapp and his group haven’t yet been able to serve people during a full-scale event at the stadium.

The South East entrance to the newly constructed home of the Texas Rangers baseball club, Globe Life Field, sits empty of any pedestrian traffic in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday, March 25, 2020.(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Concessionaires start planning months in advance of the openers. That means a lot of products, such as hot dogs, bottled beverages and frozen foods, had already been delivered to many ballparks before the season was put on hold.

“It’s definitely different … it’s kind of unheard of (that) all the major sports inside the United States would be closed at the exact same time,” said Ken Gaber, vice president of operational excellence for Delaware North Sportservice. “Personally, it’s difficult. I think everybody feels the exact same way.”

Delaware North has donated to local charities more than 41,000 pounds of food, including perishable items already sent to MLB stadiums it operates, and concessions from its other venues, including some NBA and NHL arenas suddenly shut down in the middle of those seasons. There were also several spring training venues at the peak of their schedules.


The World Series champion Washington Nationals have reduced staff at Nationals Park, where a facilities group is still maintaining the ballpark and putting on the finishing touches for the season.

“Prior to every baseball season, you’re always working very aggressively to get ready for opening day. That’s a fixed date and time and you just have to be ready,” said Frank Gambino, Washington’s senior vice president of ballpark operations. “We had been working very diligently, and continue to work diligently, to try and get as close as we can to ready for whenever opening day eventually comes.”

This March 25, 2020, photo shows closed gates at Nationals Park in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Gambino said the Nationals were able to defer many of the concession deliveries and stocking of the stadium while monitoring the COVID-19 situation.

There have been no reports of any MLB players testing positive for the novel coronavirus. Two minor leaguers in the Yankees system did, and the Red Sox closed down their entire spring training complex in Fort Myers, Florida, this week after saying that one of their minor league players had tested positive.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.


The Baltimore Orioles were scheduled to open at home Thursday against the Yankees, likely with a clean-shaven Cole on the mound for the visitors. Camden Yards will be ready whenever the season finally starts, and the Orioles hope to maintain the enthusiasm that was whipped up for the team throughout a now-extended offseason.

“The bright spot in this sort of cloudy day is that our fans will be craving baseball,” said Jennifer Grondahl, the Orioles vice president of community development and communications. “If we can put together a season and the entertainment that we have planned and add to that, I feel like we’ll be able to continue that momentum.”

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Athletics: Olympic qualification process and late season being studied, says Coe

LONDON (REUTERS) – World Athletics is working to restart a shuttered athletics season and studying any changes that may be needed in the qualifying process for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, president Seb Coe said on Friday (March 27).

The governing body is hoping to offer a series of meetings that may begin in August and run to October so athletes can get back in to competition as quickly as possible when it is safe to do so due to the coronavirus pandemic, Coe said in a letter addressed to the athletics community.

“We don’t yet know the date for the Games next year,” Coe said, “but once they (the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government) have made it, we will look at what, if any, impact that decision has on our World Athletics Championships Oregon 21.”

Many expect the championships in Eugene, Oregon, to be moved to 2022.

Athletics’ global governing body also hopes to provide an answer as soon as possible to any changes to the Tokyo Olympics qualifying process, Coe said.

World Athletics began reviewing its Olympic qualification process after the IOC and sports federations agreed that all athletes currently qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Games will remain qualified for next year’s event.

“In athletics the primary qualification avenue is by meeting the entry standards set out in March 2019,” Coe added.

“Once those places are allocated, the remaining athletes are drawn from the world ranking list. As of today, all athletes who have met the entry standards for their event will remain qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021. This is approximately 50 per cent of the places.”

A major review is also underway of the global calendar of events, not just for the next two years which will see some major disruptions, but for the long term.

The decision comes as athletics’ Diamond League series announced on Friday it has cancelled its meetings through June but hopes to have a late season.

“The priority for all of us right now is to contain the pandemic, stay healthy and stay home,” Coe said. “But where we can continue to drive our sport forward.

“The world will not be the same after this pandemic.”

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Coronavirus: IOC Boxing Task Force defends London event after virus strikes

ISTANBUL (AFP) – The International Olympic Committee’s Boxing Task Force on Thursday (March 26) questioned claims from Turkish officials that it facilitated the spread of coronavirus by allowing this month’s qualifying tournament in London to go ahead.

Turkey’s boxing federation criticised organisers of the event after three fighters and a coach tested positive for Covid-19.

The Boxing Road to Tokyo tournament, featuring competitors from across Europe, started on March 14 but was suspended after just three days.

The Olympics themselves have since been postponed.

Eyup Gozgec, president of the Turkish Boxing Federation, was scathing about the tournament in the British capital.

“The International Olympic Committee Boxing Task Force and the local committee in London, responsible for the organisation, acted as if nothing happened rather than postpone the tournament over coronavirus while every corner of the world has been on fire since December,” he told AFP.

Gozgec, who is also vice-president of the European Boxing Confederation (EUBC), said his team went to London on March 11 to prepare for the tournament but found no protective measures in place at their hotel or elsewhere.

“There were no protective measures in the hotels we were staying, whether it be hygienic disinfectants, gloves or a warning sign,” he said.

“All the coaches and athletes ate in self-service style from the same kitchen. There was neither a warning nor any other measure as if the virus had not visited there.”

Gozgec added: “Some of our fighters are under quarantine in dormitories and some are in their homes. I am also on my ninth day of quarantine. I’m in good health.”

EUBC president Franco Falcinelli had said he feared the risk of a boxer contracting the virus in London was “very high”.

But the Boxing Task Force defended itself strongly.

“Some news reports appeared to draw a connection between the affected participants and the Boxing Road to Tokyo European qualifier held in London,” it said in a statement.

“The London event was suspended 10 days ago, on 16 March 2020, and the BTF is not aware of any link between the competition and the infection.

“Many participants were in independently organised training camps in Italy, Great Britain and in their home countries before the competition started on 14 March 2020 and have returned home a while ago so it is not possible to know the source of infection.”

A spokesman for the local organising committee said extensive measures had been taken to protect athletes and support teams.

These included “the provision of hand sanitisers throughout the competition spaces and the introduction of routine temperature tests”.

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Coronavirus: First major local competition in Singapore cancelled as Netball Super League is called off

SINGAPORE – The Netball Super League (NSL) has been cancelled in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Netball Singapore (NS) announced on Friday (March 27), making it the first major local competition to be called off.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) had announced on Monday night that all sporting events, regardless of size, must be deferred or cancelled, with the measure taking effect until at least April 30.

In accordance with MOH’s updated guidelines, the NSL was suspended indefinitely. The semi-finals and preliminary final were supposed to take place this weekend while the final was scheduled for next Saturday at Our Tampines Hub.

However, NS has decided to abort the competition completely after two round robin games, with chief executive Cyrus Medora saying: “While the current decision is that all sports stops until April 30, we understand that could very well be extended with the large number of Singapore citizens and long term residents still to return.

“The virus is still out of control in many countries too. In addition, there can be no club training at all until end April.”

The results of the two round robin games, which started on Feb 8 and ended last Sunday, will be the final standing for the clubs for this year’s competition.

As such, Sneakers Stingrays are champions, with Mission Mannas coming in as runners-up and Blaze Dolphins finishing third.

The Singapore Premier League football competition, along with all clubs’ training sessions, was suspended on Tuesday.

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Singapore Pools shuts live betting locations

Punters will no longer be able to place wagers at Singapore Pools’ live betting venues, after the betting operator introduced measures from yesterday that would help ensure that the health and well-being of staff members and customers are protected from the coronavirus.

It said on Wednesday that it would shut all Livewire venues for live sports betting and off-course betting centres for horse racing indefinitely. This was due to the “Tighter Measures to Minimise Further Spread of Covid-19” advisory that was released by the Ministry of Health (MOH) the day before.

Since last Saturday, Singapore Pools has had social distancing measures in place. It had reduced operating hours, closed off selected centres, regulated access and placed physical separation measures at queues. Since Wednesday, all live lottery draws such as 4D, Toto and Singapore Sweep were held behind closed doors and the live draws at branches were suspended.

The Singapore Turf Club has also closed its Kranji race course to the public as of yesterday, and reduced the frequency of its local race day for April from up to two weekly to once a week.

There will be no screenings of overseas simulcast races, and customers can view the simulcast and local races on StarHub channels 288 and 289. The measures are expected to be in place until April 30.

While punters can no longer attend lottery draws or local races, Singapore Pools account holders can continue to place bets online and via telephone.

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Coronavirus: Sport Singapore adopts stricter measures at ActiveSG facilities, asks users to be socially responsible

SINGAPORE – Sport Singapore (SportSG) will continue to review its physical distancing procedures, which kicked in at ActiveSG venues on Monday last week. Rules such as lane segregation at tracks and swimming pools were enforced by the national agency to minimise gatherings but led to overcrowding in some lanes.

This week, SportSG announced more physical distancing rules after the Ministry of Health (MOH) imposed stricter new measures.

Organised activities must be kept to a maximum of 10 participants with a one metre spacing between them. The operating capacity of facilities, such as gyms, stadiums, swimming pools and indoor sport halls, is restricted to one person per 16 sq m.

To prevent crowding at gyms, efforts to increase the space between equipment will be taken. Users will also be reminded to wipe equipment after use and maintain physical distancing.

A SportSG spokesman told The Straits Times: “In view of MOH’s advisory on March 24, we have updated our advisory for sport and physical exercise/activity, to provide operational guidance on the tighter physical distancing measures. These measures are to be strictly followed by private operators and national sports associations.

“We appreciate the public feedback and patience as we adjust our measures. We are committed to work together to enable everyone to exercise and stay healthy. We also appeal to all our visitors to practise social responsibility.”

The new preventive steps apply to all ActiveSG stadiums, sports halls, gyms, swimming complexes and studios. These facilities have also implemented a single point of entry where possible to facilitate temperature taking (except stadiums) and recording of visitor details.

Pools remain open as there is currently no evidence suggesting the virus can be spread through water and experts have said that it is generally safe to go swimming.

Infectious diseases expert Leong Hoe Nam noted that the water and chlorine in swimming pools could help to kill the virus.

Dr Leong, who practises at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, also advised against lingering around the pool area.

While the risk of transmission from surfaces is relatively low, professor of medicine at the University of Tennessee’s College of Nursing Roberta Lavin told US Masters Swimming the bigger concern is the people one meets and mixes with at the pool.

When several swimmers go into a lane together, the few moments at the wall in close proximity to one another can be a prime opportunity for viral transmission if one person is carrying the virus.

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Coronavirus forces NCAA to make massive $375M cut to school payouts

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The NCAA will drastically reduce its payouts to Division I schools this year after the coronavirus outbreak forced the cancellation of its March Madness basketball tournaments and other championship events, the organization announced on Thursday.

NCAA’s board of governors voted to distribute $225 million in revenue to Division I schools in June. The sum marked a sharp decrease of an earlier projection for $600 million in revenue distributions, with the first payment originally scheduled for April.


“We are living in unprecedented times not only for higher education, but for the entire nation and around the globe as we face the COVID-19 public health crisis,” said Michael Drake, chairman of the NCAA’s board of governors and president of Ohio State University. “As an Association, we must acknowledge the uncertainties of our financial situation and continue to make thoughtful and prudent decisions on how we can assist conferences and campuses in supporting student-athletes now and into the future.”

Earlier this month, the NCAA made an unprecedented decision to cancel the men’s and women’s March Madness basketball tournaments due to the coronavirus outbreak. The decision came hours after U.S. sports leagues, including the NBA and NHL, suspended their seasons until further notice.


The cancellation cost the NCAA expected revenue from its most lucrative event. The men’s basketball tournament alone generates $867.5 million annually from television and marketing rights, according to the NCAA.

“The Association has prepared for a financial catastrophic event like the one we face now,” Drake added. “While we certainly have challenges ahead, we would be in a far worse position had it not been for this long-standing, forward-focused planning.”


The $225 million in payouts will include $50 million from the NCAA’s reserve fund. The NCAA noted that it has a $270 million event cancellation insurance policy to cover the remaining distributions within a year.

Television rights, marketing deals and championship ticket sales comprise the bulk of the NCAA’s annual revenue. The Division I board of governors will determine how to disperse the $225 million among its member schools.


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MLB final pitch could be closer to Christmas than Halloween

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If the final pitch of the 2020 baseball season comes closer to Christmas than Halloween, that's fine with the players.

Major League Baseball owners ratified a 17-page agreement with the union on Friday in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with players willing to extend the season as long as needed to cover as close to a full schedule as possible.

Even if it involves neutral sites in warm-weather cities and domes. Even if it involves playing in empty ballparks. Even if it involves lots of day-night doubleheaders.


And if it means expanding the playoffs from 10 teams, fine.

“Players want to play. That's what we do,” said union head Tony Clark, a former All-Star first baseman. “Being able to get back on the field and being able to play, even if that means their fans are watching at home, but being able to play for their fans is something they've all expressed a desire and an interest to do, and to do so as soon as possible."

The deal provides for $170 million in advances from salaries that total more than $4 billion and guarantees service time to players even if no games are played this year. That means Mookie Betts, George Springer, Marcus Stroman, Trevor Bauer and J.T. Realmuto remain on track for free agency next offseason.


This season was to start Thursday and Game 7 of the World Series was on track to be Oct. 28. With opening day postponed until mid-May at the earliest, the final pitch could come as Frosty the Snowman starts popping up. The sides discussed a regular season extending into October and a postseason in November.

“We would play as long as we possibly could. Obviously, the weather becomes a challenge the later you get in the calendar year,” Clark said. “But we would do our best to play as many games as possible regardless of when we start.”

A bigger playoff field will be considered.

This is "a year where trying different things could be of benefit, and that is one of the things that in a one-year trial could be a benefit,” Clark said.

When the season can start is beyond the control of MLB and the union. If games are missed, players will receive prorated shares of their salaries.

“Each of the parties shall work in good faith to as soon as is practicable commence, play, and complete the fullest 2020 championship season and post-season that is economically feasible,” the agreement says. There must be no legal restrictions on mass gathering and travel, and a determination that play “does not pose an unreasonable health and safety risk to players, staff or spectators.”


MLB agreed with the union to use “best efforts to play as many games as possible, while taking into account player safety and health, rescheduling needs, competitive considerations, stadium availability, and the economic feasibility of various alternatives.”

Players would consider waiving the rule against playing no more than 20 days in a row. It remains unclear what the minimum number of games needed for a season would be.

“We haven't discussed an exact number,” Clark said.

Players ratified the deal Thursday night. They would keep their salary advances if no games are played in 2020 and waived their claim to additional salaries if the season is scrapped.

MLB threatened to stop the amateur draft and international amateur signings, which account for about $400 million in annual bonuses. Teams gained the right to cut the draft from its usual 40 rounds to as few as five this year and as few as 20 in 2021. Signing bonuses for players in the draft and for international amateurs will be frozen at 2019 levels through 2021.

“It is not ideal," Clark said. “The players were committed to preserving entry in some form, which was quite different than what was being represented from the other side.”

It remains unclear whether the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles will be played on July 14.

"Obviously, the calendar is going to dictate a lot of what can and can't be done," Clark said.


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Patriots made 'mistake' letting Tom Brady go, Joe Montana says

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The New England Patriots made a critical error by failing to re-sign their quarterback Tom Brady, according to fellow NFL legend Joe Montana.

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Brady, 42, signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this month after 20 seasons with the Patriots. Montana, who won four Super Bowls over 13 seasons as quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, said New England should have done more to retain its longtime leader.


“I don’t know what’s going on inside there, but somebody made a mistake,” Montana told USA Today.

Talks between Brady and the Patriots on a potential return never escalated to an official contract offer, according to multiple reports. However, Patriots owner Robert Kraft indicated that he preferred to work out a deal with Brady rather than let him sign with another franchise.


Montana, 63, dealt with a similar change late in his NFL career when the 49ers traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs. He led the Chiefs to two playoff berths in his final two seasons in the league.

“I think when you look at the whole situation, you try to figure out how you want to get away from things that are there,” Montana said. “I had a different story, where they had made a decision. He, obviously, they never would have gotten rid of. I still don’t understand how New England let him get away. I don’t understand that.”


Brady won six Super Bowls in nine appearances during his 20 seasons with the Patriots. He signed a two-year contract with the Buccaneers worth $50 million guaranteed plus an additional $9 million in performance-based incentives.

“I’m starting a new football journey and thankful for the @buccaneers for giving me an opportunity to do what I love to do,” Brady wrote on Instagram.


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Virtual IndyCar races during coronavirus pandemic

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IndyCar isn’t sure when it can get its cars on track to officially start the season. For now, the series will follow the lead of other racing leagues and go virtual.

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IndyCar’s first iRacing event will be Saturday with a 25-car field. The track is still being decided by fan vote.


IndyCar, like all sports, has been idled during the coronavirus pandemic, which hit the United States just as the series was ready to open its season. The league had a hectic 24-hours in St. Petersburg, Fla., where the March 15 season opener was scheduled to be run through the downtown city streets.

The areas around the track and grandstands are nearly empty at the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Friday, March 13, 2020, in St. Petersburg. NASCAR and IndyCar have postponed their weekend schedules. (Dirk Shadd/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

The mayor of St. Petersburg first said the race could not have spectators, and IndyCar planned to proceed with strict guidelines aimed to limit the amount of people permitted to enter the venue. Just a day later, the series followed NASCAR and reversed course and called off the race.

IndyCar has suspended its season through May 9 and so far has made no public adjustments to its plan. The league is now owned by Roger Penske, who is facing a looming decision whether to proceed with his first Indianapolis 500 as schedules at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That race draws crowds in excess of 300,000 and is scheduled for May 24.


Workers begin to dismantle the track for the IndyCar Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Monday, March 16, 2020, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Race organizers canceled the event to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Penske has poured millions into prepping the speedway for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” since announcing in early November he was buying the historic landmark property.

As Penske and his executive team wrangle with their options, IndyCar followed NASCAR, IMSA and Formula One into the eSports competition to create new content for its fans.

NASCAR’s debut event last Sunday was aired live on Fox Sports One and with 903,000 viewers it was the most watched esports event in U.S. history. The virtual race audience beat the 770,000 viewers Mortal Combat drew to The CW in 2016.


Workers begin to dismantle the track for the IndyCar Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg auto race Monday, March 16, 2020, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Race organizers canceled the event to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Chris O’Mea

It was the highest-rated FS1 broadcast since most live sports events were canceled the second week of March in an effort to slow the pandemic. IndyCar’s broadcast partner is NBC, but the network passed on coverage and the race will instead by streamed by IndyCar, and many drivers will have live social media feeds running during the race.

Most series regulars have committed to participate in the events scheduled to run through May 2. The entry list has only 25 confirmed drivers. But it is widely believed seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, who is scheduled to retire from full-time NASCAR racing at the end of the season, will join the field.


Johnson wants to dabble in other series when he’s done, and the simulator he used last week for NASCAR’s first iRacing event appeared to have seat settings for Johnson to be driving Indy cars or sports cars, two of the series he’s interested in racing next year.

Workers begin to dismantle the fans grandstand for the IndyCar Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg auto race, Monday, March 16, 2020, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Race organizers canceled the event to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/

Among those confirmed to compete in the IndyCar event is Australian V8 SuperCars champion Scott McLaughlin, who is scheduled to make his IndyCar debut on the road course at Indianapolis on May 9.

McLaughlin is racing along with all three of the full-time Team Penske drivers, including reigning series champion Josef Newgarden and reigning Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud.


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