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COMMENTARY: America’s pastime makes its much-needed return with other sports beginning to follow suit

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

The four-month wait is over for baseball. The 60-game MLB season began on July 23 and, for basketball and hockey, their unexpected hiatus comes a week after that with the resumption of their regular seasons and postseasons.

While there are some unusual aspects to the 2020 season, it is still baseball, and nothing beats the voices of your favorite play-by-play announcers and color analysts, the crack of the bat and the roar of…piped in noise. Yeah, with no spectators allowed at the ballparks, MLB decided to pipe in noise for that real experience atmosphere. I watched a lot of baseball since last Thursday and other than the fact that there were no spectators, it pretty much was status quo.

The game was still played the same, scoreboards are still lit up and provide game and season stats and other tidbits of the players when they come up to bat, players still have their walk-up songs played and horns blare when home runs are hit.

While the risk of the Coronavirus is still out there with no timetable of when it will go away, it was important to get baseball back to some type of normalcy when no one quite knows when everything will truly get back to normal. And, if anyone was wondering what it would feel like without real spectators in the stands (sorry cutouts of heads, you don’t count), one doesn’t have to go too far back to find out.

On Apr. 29, 2015, a Baltimore Orioles home game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards against the Chicago White Sox was spectator-free because of civil unrest in the Charm City. But, members of the media, photographers and other team personnel were still allowed to be at the game. The same is going on during these unprecedented times, although there is a limit on the number of media that can attend a game.

Also, it was interesting to see the different broadcast crews, both national and local, do their best to cover the game. Some were broadcasting games from studios in other cities, some were broadcasting games from studios at the ballparks and some were broadcasting games from the press box, though six feet away. In any event, it sounded like the broadcasters were in their normal comfort zone at the ballpark.

Yes, it was great to get baseball back and watch something other than reruns of classic games on television. While the recent outbreak over the weekend from the Miami Marlins cast a dim light on the sport, it still goes on, for now.

Then came this past Tuesday afternoon with the first televised exhibition National Hockey League game. Again, like baseball, it was still hockey with piped in noise. The NHL, like the National Basketball Association, have seemed to be operating diligently, placing themselves in the so-called bubble, with few to zero positive cases after numerous tests. Having two to three hockey games in either Edmonton or Toronto everyday or having up to six NBA games at three different venues in Orlando is the right thing. I only wish it could be that easy for baseball, but it isn’t.

With 30 baseball teams playing 60 games in two or even three cities as opposed to 24 hockey teams in two cities or all of basketball hunkered down in Orlando, it just wasn’t feasible for baseball. I was even coming up with a scenario where the West Division teams could play in Seattle or Phoenix, places that have retractable roofs. But the teams in the Central and East divisions wouldn’t have that luxury. And, you would be able to have no more than three games in one city per day.

It all comes down to the obvious, which is test every day or every other day and being smart and responsible. No pool parties, in which one baseball player has admitted to, no spitting, in which that same player has been caught doing in an exhibition game, and no large gathering. But I guess that was too much to ask for as it relates to the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers. Just be safe and smart and we’ll all get through this together.

Closer to home and this immediate area, the scramble to reschedule games has already started for high school athletics. More will come from the area schools over the next several months but I’ll be intrigued to see what the dynamics of boys and girls volleyball and boys and girls water polo being played from the middle of December to as late as the middle of March, especially if a coach for a girls volleyball team is also the coach for a boys volleyball team. I’ll be intrigued to see what football will be like from January to April and if there will be a homecoming game. I’ll be intrigued to see if some mountain schools will have to cancel or postpone some events because of the anticipated snow they will see in January and February. And, I’ll be intrigued to see the impact of club players being allowed to play at the same time as their high school sports, which is one temporary change the CIF-Southern Section has made for the 2020-2021 school year.

As I’ve said before, changes are happening on a daily basis and sometimes on an hourly basis. There will be a time when that light at the end of the tunnel will finally surface. But we don’t know when it will happen. At the same time, just sit back, enjoy the baseball season, enjoy wall to wall hockey and basketball on a daily basis and get ready for the National Football League in September. Be safe everyone.


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