NY Encourages Pro Sports Teams to Resume Playing in State Without Spectators

"Whoever can reopen, we’re a ready, willing and able partner," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

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New York is encouraging professional sports teams to resume playing in the state without spectators, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

"I have also been encouraging major sports teams to plan reopenings without fans. But the games could be televised. New York state will help those major sports franchises to do just that. Hockey, basketball, baseball, football. Whoever can reopen, we’re a ready, willing and able partner," Cuomo said.

On Saturday, Cuomo said horse racing tracks, 11 in total including Aqueduct Racetrack and Belmont Park, would join Watkins Glen International reopening next month without fans present for their racing events.

The pandemic has prompted professional sporting events to come to a halt. The NBA suspended its tournaments and eventually its season. The 2020 Summer Olympics will now be taking place in 2021. Three of the world's best-known marathons -- Boston, Berlin and London -- were either postponed or canceled. Even sports at the collegiate and community level were impacted.

Cuomo's announcement comes after the Major League Baseball sent out to teams a 67-page draft of its proposed guidelines to resume during the coronavirus pandemic. A copy was sent to teams Friday and obtained by The Associated Press. The guidelines, first reported by The Athletic, are subject to negotiation with the players’ association.

MLB will look somewhat like high school ball this year under protocols to deal with the new coronavirus, with showers at ballparks discouraged and players possibly arriving in uniform, like they did when they were teenagers.

Team personnel will be banned from eating at restaurants on road trips.

Even the Phillie Phantic and Mr. Met will be missing, banned from the field along with all other team mascots.

The traditional exchange of lineup cards would be eliminated, along with high-fives, fist bumps, and bat boys and girls, according to a 67-page draft of Major League Baseball’s proposed 2020 Operations Manual.

Teams will be allowed to have 50 players each under the plan, with the number active for each game still be negotiated.

Spitting is prohibited along with water jugs and the use of saunas, steam rooms, pools and cryotherapy chambers. Hitting in indoor cages is discouraged, batting gloves encouraged.

Batting practice pitchers are to wear masks, dugout telephones disinfected after each use. Players may not touch their face to give signs, and they’re not allowed to lick their fingers. Teams are encouraged to hold meetings outdoors, players spread apart.

Meanwhile, Major League Soccer is looking at the possibility of resuming the season this summer with all teams playing in Orlando, Florida.

Details of the plan are still under consideration, but the league's 26 teams and limited staff would likely be sheltered in a resort with games played without fans at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World, a person with knowledge of the plan told The Associated Press. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity Wednesday because the plan has not been formally announced. The proposal was first reported by the Washington Post.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said on multiple occasions he believes a two- to three-week training camp would be needed before the season resumes. Many hockey teams have had trainers send at-home workout routines to players, but few if any have been on the ice in months.

“As much as I could mentally be in game mode, your body’s not ready for it if you don’t get a full offseason of training and if you don’t get to play a long training camp with like seven exhibition games,” Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. “If you only get a week training camp with a couple exhibition games, you’re going to ruin your body.”

On Monday, New Jersey also announced that batting cages, golf ranges and other outdoor activities may resume Friday.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story misstated the foot races that were impacted by the pandemic. The TCS New York City Marathon is currently scheduled for Nov. 1.

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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