Major League Baseball announced a delay to the start of the 2020 regular season on Thursday, becoming the latest professional sports league to take drastic steps in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

MLB coronavirus Opening Day
MLB has pushed back the start of its season by at least two weeks in response to the coronavirus pandemic. (Image: Gail Burton/AP)

In a statement, the league announced that the regular season would be delayed by at least two weeks and that it would suspend all spring training games.

MLB Seeks Resumption ‘As Soon as Possible’

Major League Baseball had scheduled its regular season to begin on March 26.

“MLB and the clubs have been preparing a variety of contingency plans regarding the 2020 regular season schedule,” the league said in its statement. “MLB will announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time and will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible.”

League commissioner Rob Manfred held a conference call with team owners on Thursday afternoon in order to formalize the MLB coronavirus response. Minor League Baseball made a similar announcement, saying lower leagues would also delay their seasons.

The last time MLB pushed back Opening Day was in 1995. The strike that canceled the 1994 World Series lingered on into the next year, and the following season began on April 26 with a 144-game schedule.

Players, Coaches React to Coronavirus

In the hours before and after the announcement, players and coaches spoke in favor of a suspension.

“It’s probably the prudent thing to do,” Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin told reporters on Thursday. “I mean this thing seems to be spreading and getting worse by the day. And, you know, something severe, you’re probably better off taking care of it sooner than later.”

“First and foremost, I want to say I’m going to miss baseball,” Mets first baseman Pete Alonso said in a statement. “God willing, it will only be a short hiatus from the best game in the world. It’s a strange circumstance in a strange world. I hope everybody stays healthy and safe.”

The MLB Players Association also issued a statement regarding the decision.

“Players are of course disappointed they won’t be able to compete on the field,” MLBPA director Tony Clark said in the statement. “At the same time, they recognize the importance of public health and safety.”

MLB joins the NBA, NHL, and MLS in announcing the suspension of operations in the face of the coronavirus outbreak. Worldwide, COVID-19 has been responsible for more than 4,700 deaths, including 38 in the United States.

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