By Rob Rains
JUPITER, Fla. – Responding to the concern about the potential spread of the coronavirus, Major League Baseball joined other professional sports leagues on Tuesday by closing team clubhouses to all but players and other “essential” personnel.
Among the concerns of Cardinals players was if more actions will follow.
“What’s next?” asked third baseman Matt Carpenter. “Are they going to cancel the season? … I don’t know if keeping the media out is going to save us all from the coronavirus.”
The answer to Carpenter’s question, at least at the moment, is no. A statement on Monday night from MLB said spring training games will go on as scheduled and there are no current plans to delay the start of the regular season, as will happen in the professional leagues in Japan and Korea.
The immediate effect of closing major-league clubhouses is that media members will at least temporarily not be allowed in the locker rooms to interview players. All of those interviews must now be done outside or in a designated interview room.
“I heard about that when I got here today,” said pitcher Adam Wainwright. “Everybody knows the media is carrying the coronavirus.”
On a serious note, Wainwright said, “They are just trying to control it as much as they can. Do we know yet what it does to people our age? I know they said the elderly folks, and guys in the clubhouse were looking at me.
“It’s something you just don’t want to spread. We want to be able to play a season without having to worry about the fans. Controlling it now seems to make sense.
“If you look at how numbers are projected to spike, just from my limited exposure of watching the news about it, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be cautious. It looks like we are going to see a lot more cases here, now that they have started testing for it. People just need to be careful.”
Wainwright noted that he had heard one of the recommendations for controlling the virus was to have people stay away from venues that attract a large crowd.
“I can’t think of anyplace that draws a bigger crowd than a 50,000 -seat baseball arena,” he said.
There have been games played before empty or virtually empty stadiums in the past. One recent occurrence came during riots in Baltimore a few years ago.
Wainwright hopes the situation does not reach the point where that becomes necessary.
“It’s harder for me to play in front of small crowds than large crowds,” he said. “We’ll see. I can’t speculate about what I don’t know.”
Another concerns, at least among the media, is that players might actually enjoy not having reporters in the clubhouse and this might create a movement to install that policy going forward, with or without a threat of spreading a disease.
“Sometimes it can be a little uncomfortable in there,” Wainwright said.
“You can’t have the same conversations you might otherwise.”
Carpenter said banning the media from the clubhouse will have at least one other effect.
“It’s going to make your jobs harder,” he said. “And you are going to find out which guys want to talk to you.”
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