ST. LOUIS —
Baseball is set to return to Busch Stadium next week, but multiple steps must be taken before that can happen.
The 2020 season is going to look different for fans, and feel different for players. From social distancing in the clubhouse, to completing a series of weekly testing that begins Friday, there will be new protocols in place.
The St. Louis Cardinals have started a process of entry exams for players, which will include a COVID-19 test, and antibody test, and a symptom questionnaire among other things.
This testing will be followed by a 48-hour quarantine period until organizations receive the results.
Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III said health and safety is the main priority moving forward.
“It’s not quite the bubble that we’ve heard about in other sports,” DeWitt III said. “But it’s very frequent testing, it’s all things the players are gonna have to get used to.”
DeWitt III said he believes players will adapt to the testing process each week, but may have more of a challenge adapting to the many rules put into place around the stadium.
“It’s gonna be a little different for them,” DeWitt III said. “A lot different in terms of just the ways they interact with each other in the clubhouse, and on the field. The games will be the same I think, but the way they handle and interact in the clubhouse will be a lot different. It’ll just be something we all have to get used to.”
Players and coaches will undergo COVID-19 testing every other day at a dedicated station within the ballpark.
Sports medicine doctor Rick Lehman said he agrees with the league’s protocols put into place to protect players, coaches, and staff members, but believes the hardest part will be keeping the virus from spreading if a player does test positive.
“I think you have to assume that the virus is in the air,” Lehman said. “It’s in the environment. If you let the athletes stay in that environment, you’re gonna get more positive tests. So, I think if there is a positive test, you better be ready to change your environment, whether that means playing somewhere else, calling some games off, or changing the schedule.”
The MLB safety guidelines instruct each team to establish a specific COVID-19 action plan in coordination with local health officials, including an isolation area within the ballpark for players who develop coronavirus symptoms.
“We do know that the reality is probably some players are gonna test positive, and there’s ways we’re gonna work around that and deal with it,” DeWitt III said. “But, I think it’s just one of those things that we’re gonna do absolutely our best to keep everybody safe, and hopefully we’ll get this season in and crown a champion at the end of October.”
Players who test negative for COVID-19 will report to the team’s first official workout at Busch stadium on July 3.