Major League Baseball and players reach deal to begin season

Major League Baseball and its players association reached an agreement to start a pandemic-delayed 2020 season on Tuesday evening, putting to rest a months-long pay dispute.

Players would report to training camps by July 1, with regular season play beginning on either July 23 or 24, the league said. 

Major League Baseball is thrilled to announce that the 2020 season is on the horizon,” Rob Manfred, the league’s commissioner, said in a statement, adding that it had submitted a schedule to play a 60-game regular season for review by the players association. 

The agreement at least temporarily quells what Mr Manfred had called “a disaster for our game” amid public and fraught negotiations between baseball’s owners and players, in the sport’s first work stoppage since 1995. It also comes just days after spring training camps were shut down for cleaning due to rising coronavirus cases in Florida and Arizona, casting doubt on how teams can return to the field safely. 

Three players on the Colorado Rockies team have tested positive for coronavirus after preliminary workouts at their home field, The Denver Post reported late on Tuesday.

While sports have resumed play around the world, including Germany’s Bundesliga and the English Premier League, American professional sports are still tinkering with plans to return to the field. Earlier this month the National Basketball Association approved a plan that would allow some teams to compete in a so-called bubble environment at Disney World in Florida beginning on July 31.

In recent weeks, baseball owners sought to limit the number of games played in order to stem losses due to a lack of paying fans, who comprise the lion’s share of the sport’s $10.7bn revenues, while players fought for a longer season and fully prorated pay. 

Ultimately, both sides returned to terms agreed in a deal brokered on March 26, shortly after the onset of the pandemic upended plans to start the season. The 60 game 2020 season is roughly a third of a standard 162-game baseball year, not counting play-offs and the World Series finals. 

MLB said it was working with “public health experts, infectious disease specialists and technology providers” to facilitate a safe return to play, and that it expected the league’s teams would compete out of their home stadiums.

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