Just as it seemed baseball might — and a big emphasis on the “might” — be nearing some sort of a deal to start the 2020 season, the sport received a reminder of the difficulties it faces in trying to start a season during a pandemic.
The Philadelphia Phillies on Friday closed their spring training complex after five players and three staff members tested positive for COVID-19 in Clearwater, Fla. NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury was the first to report the news.
Those numbers could increase soon, as the club also noted 20 players (both major- and minor-leaguers) and 12 staff members are awaiting the results of tests.
“The Phillies are committed to the health and welfare of our players, coaches and staff as our highest priority,” managing partner John Middleton said in a statement released by the team. “And as a result of these confirmed tests, all facilities in Clearwater have been closed indefinitely to all players, coaches and staff and will remain closed until medical authorities are confident that the virus is under control and our facilities are disinfected.”
In addition to the Phillies’ players and staff members, an unknown number of family members of those infected also tested positive, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
All of this comes on the same day the Tampa Bay Lightning was forced to shut down its facilities after two players and more staff members tested positive for the virus, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
The outbreaks, especially the Phillies’, underscore just how much work needs to be done in order for professional team sports in America to open up again safely. In baseball’s case, that’s in addition to ongoing attempts to find a financial deal between the players and owners. There’s a lot of work to be done on both sides, and don’t be surprised if Friday’s news leads to increased and louder calls for leagues to postpone their sports indefinitely, especially with the country offering little reason to believe it has the pandemic anywhere close to under control.