MLB creates a coronavirus task force and tells players to limit autographs

Major League Baseball, like the rest of the world, is preparing itself for the threat of the coronavirus. As the illness continues to spread, fear heightens and precautious mount, the league has created a task force to deal with potential issues.

As of right now, MLB isn’t canceling or postponing any games, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, but it is issuing a series of recommendations to protect players. Baseball games present an inherent risk for spreading disease. Particularly in spring training when fans often visit from different states and different parts of the world.

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At this point, MLB has only issued a memo to teams with some precautionary steps. Via ESPN:

The memo, distributed Tuesday morning to hundreds of high-ranking baseball officials, outlined suggested preparations for teams. Among the recommendations, according to the memo:

  • Players avoid taking balls and pens directly from fans to sign autographs - a suggestion that will be fleshed out in training materials the league intends to send to teams - and opt against handshakes.

  • Teams open lines of communication with the local public-health authority.

  • Front offices consult a local infectious-disease specialist who can serve as a conduit to health officials.

  • Medical personnel ensure all players have received the 2019-20 flu vaccine and are up to date on other vaccinations.

Those all seem pretty straightforward, but the first is the one that will affect fans most — particularly since people who flock to spring training view it as a hotbed for autographs.

MLB is telling players to limit autographs in fears of the coronavirus. (Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports)

Players would be allowed to bring their own pens to sign autographs, and that’s an applaudable level of fan service if they do.

The league is also working on plans that will “mitigate the spread of coronavirus at ballparks,” according to ESPN. If the coronavirus fears continue to grow toward opening day, it’s easy to see this becoming more of a worry, since the big-league stadiums hold far more people.

The league is also monitoring how clubs handle international media. With an increased amount of international stars in the league – particularly from Asian countries — there’s an increased media presence. Media from Japan and Korea, in particular, cover their MLB stars with as much dedication as team beat writers.

Some teams, according to MLB’s memo, have already restricted media access for reporters who have recently traveled to Iran, Italy and South Korea.

Pirates sanitize facility in Florida

Out of “an overabundance of caution,” the Pittsburgh Pirates had a sanitation team conduct a deep clean of their training facility in Bradenton, Florida, on Tuesday morning, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

The move came after a man in Manatee County, where Bradenton is located, tested positive for the coronavirus. It was not done due to any concerns of the virus within any players, employees or others near the team, per ESPN.

The team will hold a meeting with players on Wednesday to address safety protocols. 

"In an effort to be as proactive as possible and perhaps in an overabundance of caution, we took advantage of our scheduled off day to professionally sanitize and deep clean LECOM Park," Pirates vice president of communications Brian Warecki said, via ESPN. "We will continue to actively consider other efforts that we can implement to help maintain a healthy environment for our fans, players and staff."

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