Could Baseball Return with Limited Numbers of Fans, Socially-Distant Seating? Dr. Anthony Fauci Says…Maybe

With the admission that it’s still far too early to predict the near future with any degree of certainty, Dr. Anthony Fauci remains optimistic about baseball’s return in 2020. Speaking with YES Network’s Jack Curry, Dr. Fauci laid out some potential scenarios in which baseball could be back this summer.

“People who know more about baseball structure have said it, but I think it’s reasonable,” Fauci said. “You can either have the situation where you get the group of players and you put them in a few cities, you make sure they’re not infected, you test them so they don’t infect each other. And you have baseball, as much as it’s tough to say, in a spectator-less environment. In an environment in which people can watch it on television.

“The revenues aren’t going to be the same as when you have a packed stadium, like Nats Stadium where I go. But I think having them play on television is certainly better than nothing.”

That revenue piece is a biggie, since owners are already saying it’ll be more expensive to hold games in empty parks than to not have games at all. That’s at the heart of the latest disagreement between the league and union, as MLB is reportedly trying to negotiate pay cuts beyond the prorated salaries players would receive in a shortened season.

One solution could be to find a way for fans to attend, though having full ballparks remains out of the question at this point.

“Another version of that is to limit the amount of people in a stadium and make sure you seat them in a way where they are really quite separated,” Fauci expained. “And maybe even wearing the facial covers, then a mask. I know people look at that and say, ‘What are you crazy?’ But, to me, it’s better than no baseball at all. That’s the point.”

That begs a number of additional issues, like how you queue people up to enter the stadium and control bathroom lines and usage. How do you enforce those rules? Do season ticket holders rotate somehow? There are just so many questions. Those logistics would all have to be worked out well in advance, but none of that can be sorted out until it’s safe to do so.

“It’s gonna be the virus that determines what the timetable is,” Fauci reiterated. “Because if we get the virus under really good control … it is conceivable that you may be able to have some baseball with people practicing physical separation.”

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