MLB coronavirus protocols include limiting spitting, high fives

MLB’s medical/safety protocols to return to play will include trying to discourage players from spitting, high-fiving and taking ride services such as Uber to the ballpark.

MLB has discussed a variety of these issues with the Players Association, but as of Wednesday night had not officially presented the full medical/safety document to the union.

Even before MLB shut down in mid-March, officials from the Commissioner’s Office were informing players how to mitigate the risk of contracting coronavirus by, for example, not using fans’ writing implements to sign autographs.

USA Today first reported many of these elements.

MLB hopes there will be an educational process to get players comfortable and behind a variety of new standards designed to reduce the chance of both contracting the virus and/or spreading it. The recognition is that some of these are habitual acts that might be hard to break, such as spitting. But spitting, for example, already has been banned in both baseball leagues that have restarted, in Korea and Taiwan.

The Korea Baseball Organization, considered the third best league in the world behind MLB and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, is serving as a forerunner of what to expect with MLB. In the KBO, there are guidelines for players, for example, not to spit or high-five. No player would be thrown out of a game for either act, but they are strongly discouraged.

In addition, players and support staff are limited to one entry/exit at which they socially distance in line and wait to have their temperatures taken and walk through an infrared scan that checks body heat. This was part of the KBO’s 44-page manual that was sent to all of its 10 teams.

MLB’s medical protocols are said to be about double the length, contain many of the processes already being deployed in Korea and will include a call for regular (but not daily) blood tests, as well.

MLB is hoping to tackle how to return players and support staff safely because 1) it is a vital issue to the Players Association and 2) there is little reason to tackle other issues — namely how to pay the players — if there is not buy-in that is safe to return.

MLB’s most aggressive hope is to have negotiations with the union complete and all green lights needed from governmental and medical officials to restart spring training in mid-June and the regular season in the first week of July.

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