Atlanta Braves first baseman Freedie Freeman and the team take batting practice while preparing to play the Baltimore Orioles in a spring baseball game at the Braves new facility CoolToday Park on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in North Port, Fla.
Photo: Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP
Photo: Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

MLB suspends operations: Spring training canceled and regular season delayed

MLB held a conference call Thursday and afterward declared it is canceling all remaining spring training games and delaying the start of the regular season by at least two weeks. MLB will re-evaluate the situation as it unfolds.

Minor League Baseball followed, announcing it will delay the start of its season. It did not pinpoint a potential return date. MiLB opening day was April 9.

» More AJC coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Baseball was in the midst of its exhibition season, with teams gearing up for opening day March 26. The Mariners already were set to begin their regular slate in Arizona because of Washington’s decree, which banned events of more than 250 people. The California Department of Public Health recommended the same, which cast doubt over the openers for the Dodgers, Padres and A’s.

The Braves were scheduled to begin the season at Arizona. Their ensuing series was scheduled at San Diego, with their home opener set for April 3 against the Marlins.

After MLB’s decision, the Braves won’t play at least the first 13 games on their schedule: Four at Arizona, three at San Diego, three versus Miami and three versus San Diego.

The Braves are scheduled to embark on a two-city trip to Miami and New York on April 9, which would be the earliest possible start date according to MLB’s statement. It’s unclear how baseball will handle its schedule - and the missed games - if/when it resumes. The Braves would return home from that trip for a possible home opener April 17 against the Giants.

The team hasn’t publicly commented on how it will handle its players across the next few weeks. It did release information regarding ticket refunds (found below) and ended with the following:

“While the Braves are disappointed to cut our regular spring training schedule short, the health and safety of our fans, employees, players and the community at large has been, and always will be, a priority for us.”

From a statement issued by MLB: “MLB will announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time and will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible.

“Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our players, employees and fans. MLB will continue to undertake the precautions and best practices recommended by public health experts. We send our best wishes to all individuals and communities that have been impacted by coronavirus.”

MLB hasn’t played a shortened season since 1995, when most teams played 144 games after the end of the infamous strike that began the previous August and cost MLB its postseason.

MLB’s decision continued a trend that’s swept across sports leagues in the past 24 hours. The NBA suspended play Wednesday after a player tested positive for COVID-19, and other leagues have followed suit Thursday, including conference basketball tournaments scheduled to occur that day canceled across the country.

The NCAA canceled spring and winter championships, including March Madness and the College World Series. MLS and the NHL, in their regular seasons, also suspended operations in an effort to lessen the risk of the virus spreading.

Braves’ statement on purchased tickets:

- Beach Club Members (Season ticket holders): credit for all unplayed games will be placed into their account and applied towards their 2021 season ticket renewal. Should any currently unscheduled spring training games be added before the regular season begins, the Braves will be in contact with Beach Club Members.

- Groups who purchased through the CoolToday ticket office: tickets will be automatically refunded within 30 days to original method of payment. 

- Guests who purchased single game tickets through Ticketmaster will automatically be refunded to the original method of payment. Please allow 30 days for the refund to reflect your account.

- For guests who purchased single game tickets at the CoolToday ticket office: return your tickets to the ticket office during normal business hours for a full refund back to the original method of payment.

- Tickets purchased through third-party vendors (StubHub, etc.): guests must go back to the original point of purchase to inquire about a refund. StubHub buyers can call StubHub directly at 866-788-2482 to request a refund.

MLB’s full statement:

“Following a call with the 30 clubs, and after consultation with the Major League Baseball Players Association, Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. today announced that MLB has decided to suspend Spring Training games and to delay the start of the 2020 regular season by at least two weeks due to the national emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic. This action is being taken in the interests of the safety and well-being of our players, clubs and our millions of loyal fans.

MLB will continue to evaluate ongoing events leading up to the start of the season. Guidance related to daily operations and workouts will be relayed to Clubs in the coming days. As of 4 p.m. ET today, forthcoming Spring Training games have been cancelled, and 2020 World Baseball Classic Qualifier games in Tucson, Ariz., have been postponed indefinitely.

MLB and the clubs have been preparing a variety of contingency plans regarding the 2020 regular season schedule. MLB will announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time and will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible.

Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our players, employees and fans. MLB will continue to undertake the precautions and best practices recommended by public health experts. We send our best wishes to all individuals and communities that have been impacted by coronavirus.”

The MLB Players Associate statement from executive director Tony Clark: “The Players Association is in direct contact with Major League Baseball, and our staffs are conferring regularly with federal health officals, state and local governments, and infectious disease experts to develop contingency plans. As circumstances evolve, our efforts will evolve as well.

Players want to compete and provide entertainment to fans. The Association’s focus will remain finding ways to do so in an environment that protects not just players’ personal health and safety, but also the health and safety of fans, umpires, ballpark employees, club employees and everyone in the baseball family.”

MiLB’s full statement: “In light of the current coronavirus outbreak, and after consultation with medical professionals and our partners at Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball will delay the start of the 2020 Championship Season. We will continue to monitor the developments and will announce additional information about the 2020 season at a later date. We will work with Major League Baseball and our community partners to resume play as soon as it is safe to do so. The health and safety of Minor League Baseball fans, players and executives is our top priority, and our thoughts are with those around the world who have been affected by this outbreak.”

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