After staying relatively silent while other sporting organizations took action, Major League Baseball will suspend spring training games after 4 p.m. ET on Thursday in an attempt to protect its players and fans from the spread of coronavirus.
The regular season will also be delayed by two weeks and will be reassessed along the way. Opening Day was originally scheduled for March 26, meaning a new prospective season opener will come on April 8 at the earliest.
“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 released in a statement. “MLB will continue to evaluate ongoing events leading up to the start of the season… 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.”
The league’s 30 teams hold spring training in either Arizona and Florida, two states that have been affected by the outbreak of COVID-19. Arizona has reported nine cases of the virus while Florida — which houses the Mets and Yankees during the exhibition season — has 26 cases on file including two deaths.
Hillsborough County, which is where the Yankees’ facilities at George M. Steinbrenner Field are located, has one case of the virus confirmed.
Regardless, spring-training games with fans in attendance were being played and continued throughout Thursday afternoon. Per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, spring-training facilities will remain open for players to work out in.
A majority of the league’s west-coast teams were already facing issues concerning coronavirus.
Several MLB teams had already been affected by coronavirus. The Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants, and San Diego Padres were faced with the prospect of moving their opening home games of the regular season after Washington state and California banned public gatherings of over 250 people.
The decision was just one of the headlining events of a whirlwind day in sports as the world deals with the coronavirus outbreak.
Following the suspension of the NBA season on Wednesday night after Utah Jazz stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell contracted the virus, Major League Soccer put their season on hold for 30 days and multiple NCAA conference basketball tournaments were canceled. The NHL put its 2019-20 season on hold with hopes of returning at some point this year, too.