Going to see the Los Angeles Angels play at Angel Stadium is my favorite thing to do, so it hurts to say this, but filling seats in stadiums should not be a priority for Major League Baseball this season.
However, there is still a way for “The Show” to go on and save sports for viewers during the coronavirus pandemic.
It is uncertain when the season will start again, but there is an idea that was reported by USA Today Sports from a high-ranking league official that would safely allow for the MLB season to be played out partially or fully throughout 2020 in isolation.
The proposed idea would split the MLB into two new leagues: Grapefruit (Florida) and Cactus (Arizona).
- North: New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates.
- South: Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles.
- East: Washington Nationals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins.
- Northeast: Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Oakland Athletics.
- West: Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels.
- Northwest: Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals.
Implementing the MLB’s new conference split of the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues is the best thing that could happen for sports fans during the coronavirus pandemic.
It needs to happen.
Before the pandemic, sports seasons would rotate throughout the year, causing fans to become accustomed to jam-packed television schedules.
I firmly believe that the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues will save sports while every other league has been unable to find a working solution to isolating athletes while continuing competition.
Sports have always been a bridge to bring people together, even if you’re watching from your living room sofa.
The MLB has the chance to reinvigorate fan engagement while also saving fanatics like myself from rewatching old games and doing my best Joe Buck impersonations of the ongoing battles between my dog Simba and the mailman.
This new plan would mean that ball clubs would travel from neighboring cities to their respective spring training facilities. The majority of the games would be played in Phoenix, Arizona, at Chase Field and in Florida at either Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg or Marlins Park in Miami.
One qualifying factor that was brought up in an interview with ESPN by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is weekly coronavirus testing for the players to help maintain a safe play environment.
Although the plan does sound promising, there still are some questions unanswered.
For players like Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout, whose wife is expecting a child in August: would he be able to leave the isolated area in Arizona?
Would seeing the newborn child pose a risk?
After seeing the Angels take batting practice up close and personal in Tempe Diablo Stadium, I am very eager for the season to begin; whether it’s AL vs NL, Cactus vs Grapefruit, couch vs bleachers.
Not seeing a homerun crushed over the left-field wall or hearing the crack of a fastball hitting the catcher’s glove would be truly disappointing.
If the MLB can take this step to keep its product going while the rest of the sports world is on pause, then the league will be in prime position to reclaim its title of “America’s Pastime.”
It will save sports fans who are dying for something to watch.