Miami Marlins

MLB suspends spring training, pushes back Opening Day due to coronavirus pandemic

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The Miami Marlins’ 2020 season is now on hold.

Major League Baseball announced Thursday, following a conference call between commissioner Rob Manfred and team owners as well as discussion with the MLB Players Association, that spring training will be suspended due to the continued spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19. Opening Day, originally scheduled for March 26 across the league, is also being postponed at least two weeks. 2020 World Baseball Classic Qualifier games in Tucson, Arizona have also been postponed indefinitely.

“MLB and the Clubs have been preparing a variety of contingency plans regarding the 2020 regular season schedule,” the league’s statement read in part. “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.”

Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said the team will have Friday off while the team figures out logistics for the next few weeks. Hill said they have a group text in place with players and coaches to relay information as it comes.

“We’re taking it day-by-day, as we all are,” Hill said. “We’ll try to regroup and see where things are.”

This is MLB’s first mass postponement of openers since 1995, when the season was shortened from 162 games to 144 following a seven-and-a-half-month strike that also wiped out the 1994 World Series. Opening Day that year was pushed back from April 2 to April 26.

The announcement came when the Marlins were in the seventh inning of their 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, which had its scheduled first pitch at 1:07 p.m. and the game proceeded as if it was a regular day.

Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said in a statement that the Marlins support Manfred’s decision, adding that the Marlins will make additional announcements, including those regarding ticket information, at a later date.

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“This is an unprecedented time and this is certainly an unprecedented decision that was made in the best interest of players, fans and communities across the country,” Jeter said. “We urge everyone to continue to exercise the preventive measures set forth by the CDC and stay informed regarding the latest developments on the virus.”

The Marlins met inside their clubhouse following the game to discuss the immediate future, but Marlins manager Don Mattingly said beforehand that he was still awaiting clarity on numerous topics, including whether the team will continue practicing at the Jupiter facility.

“We talked about making adjustments,” Mattingly said, “and this is part of it. We knew there was going to be something coming down. We had a pretty good feeling with everything that’s been happening in the country and the world. We’ll get our ducks in a row.”

MLB followed in the footsteps of the other three national sporting leagues and associations that are in season to announce alterations to their schedule.

The NBA suspended its season Wednesday after a Utah Jazz player preliminary tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. According to multiple reports, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was the player who tested positive. ESPN reported Thursday morning that Gobert’s teammate Donovan Mitchell also tested positive for COVID-19.

Major League Soccer announced Thursday that it, too, is suspending its season, delaying Inter Miami’s home opener that was initially set for Saturday. The NHL “paused” its season starting with Thursday’s games.

Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez announced Thursday morning the cancellation of all mass gatherings, including Youth Fair, Miami Open, MIA 5K Run and all major events at AmericanAirlines Arena. NASCAR’s March 22 race at Homestead Miami Speedway might continue without fans.

Not mentioned in Gimenez’s statement: The Marlins or Marlins Park, which was slated to host the Philadelphia Phillies on March 26 and start the 2020 MLB season with a seven-game homestand. His statement did say that he will “be making future policy decisions regarding indoor events planned for more than 250 people based on federal and state health officials’ guidance.”

“Really from our standpoint, obviously we’re paying attention with everything that goes on in society,” Mattingly said. “With this whole thing, it’s not about baseball or basketball. It’s worldwide. We’re seeing it in a lot of different countries, so it’s something that we pay attention to.”

As for the players, they are trying to take it day-by-day and audible their routines as they get more information from MLB and the MLB Players Association.

“We’re seeing as we go,” shortstop Miguel Rojas said pre-game. “... It’s just a matter of how you’re approaching every day and how you do whatever you need to do to be safe. Keep washing your hands. Keep being precautious of what’s going on.”

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