Boston Red Sox

March 12, 2019; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Empty seats after the Arizona Diamondbacks announced that Major League Baseball is delaying the start of the 2020 regular season by at least two weeks and the remainder of their Cactus League spring training games are cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus health emergency during a press conference on Mar. 12, 2020 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher/The Republic via USA TODAY NETWORK

98.5 The Sports Hub staff report

The light at the end of the tunnel for the COVID-19 pandemic that’s put the sports world on hold may be found in Arizona — and by Major League Baseball — as the MLB and its player’s union have started talking about a potential May 2020 launch, according to the Associated Press.

“Ideas are still in the early stage, and the Arizona option would have many obstacles to overcome, the people said,” the AP’s Ronald Blum wrote. “Arizona’s advantage is 10 spring training ballparks plus the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field all within about 50 miles. Florida’s spring training ballparks are spread by as much as 220 miles.”

Blum’s report was quickly backed up by one of baseball’s top insiders, too, with a story from ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

“The plan, sources said, would dictate that all 30 teams play games at stadiums with no fans in the greater Phoenix area, including the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field, 10 spring training facilities and perhaps other nearby fields,” Passan confirmed. “Players, coaching staffs and other essential personnel would be sequestered at local hotels, where they would live in relative isolation and travel only to and from the stadium, sources said. Federal officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the National Institute of Health have been supportive of a plan that would adhere to strict isolation, promote social distancing and allow MLB to become the first professional sport to return.”

And though May would be a target date to get players back on the field, Passan noted that it would most likely set the league up for a June Opening Day, as the MLB would like to a three-week training camp in place before starting the 2020 season.

Passan also outlined some of the tweaks the league would make to their game and schedule should they successfully overcome the myriad of potential roadblocks they’re expected to encounter along the way.

  • Implementing an electronic strike zone to allow the plate umpire to maintain sufficient distance from the catcher and batter
  • No mound visits from the catcher or pitching coach
  • Seven-inning doubleheaders, which with an earlier-than-expected start date could allow baseball to come closer to a full 162-game season
  • Regular use of on-field microphones by players, as an added bonus for TV viewers
  • Sitting in the empty stands 6 feet apart — the recommended social-distancing space — instead of in a dugout

At this point, nobody would complain if it meant getting live sports back in their life, and it might just be what baseball needs to get back in everybody’s minds after what’s felt like a consistent downward trend in terms of an engaged audience.

But the biggest potential obstacle may come with the location itself, as the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t expected to deliver its worst punch to The Grand Canyon State’s hospitals until… May.

The reported plans, which will be ‘bandied about’ in the coming days per Passan, come a day after President Donald Trump held a conference call with all of the pro sports commissioners, and expressed his desire for sports to return “sooner than later” and with the MLB looking at the potential of a completely canceled season should they not find a viable solution soon.