The challenge for MLB players coming to Buffalo for games

Local News

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – One could refer to it as the “cost of doing business”. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Thursday Major League Baseball has agreed team personnel will stay in their hotel, except to travel to Sahlen Field and the airport, this summer while in Buffalo to play games.

Nellie Drew, the director of the U.B. Center for the Advancement of Sport, warns it could be difficult.

“I was relieved as a person in Western New York. I’m very pleased to hear they are being that careful,” said Drew, who is also a sports law professor. “On the other hand, I feel sorry for the players having to be that confined. I understand that’s going to be extraordinarily challenging.”

The Toronto Blue Jays are scheduled to play 25 home games at Sahlen Field in 2020. The first game is scheduled for August 11th.

Another challenge for teams, Drew says, is the difference in guidance and restrictions across different states and jurisdictions.

In the Empire State, the Department of Health has issued guidance saying teams which have traveled within a state or district on New York’s travel advisory list, “may travel to the extent necessary to participate in the professional sports activity, but must otherwise remain quarantined, and avoid all public places and settings, while in New York State.”

A Department spokesperson said that applies to teams which have traveled within those areas over the past 14 days. Five of the nine teams on the Blue Jays 2020 schedule play in such a state or district: the Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, and Baltimore Orioles.

“There will have to be ramifications, presumably those people will be given isolation,” Drew said of those who violate the guidance. “Hopefully, that won’t happen too many times.”

But it still may be difficult for players. In the NBA, which is playing in a “bubble” in Orlando, Sacramento Kings player Richaun Holmes tweeted on July 13th that he “accidentally” crossed the bubble line to pick up a food delivery. Holmes was forced to then quarantine.

Major League Baseball is not playing in a bubble, but Poloncarz says the confirmation that teams will stay in their hotels came during a video conference with league and Blue Jays officials on Thursday. Poloncarz also said the league agreed to follow and health orders issued by Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein or executive orders issued by Poloncarz.

“Based on our conversation and the protocols put in place, it is apparent to me MLB is taking extremely serious the safety of all, especially since the COVID-19 outbreak occurred with the Miami Marlins,” Poloncarz said in a statement.

Eighteen Marlins players have tested positive for the virus, ESPN reported Friday. The Marlins are the Blue Jays scheduled opponent in Buffalo August 11th.

“Major League Baseball has incredible, safe protocols that they have put in place for players on the Miami Marlins to play in Buffalo on August 11th,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said on News 4 at 5:30 on Thursday.

All Marlins games through this weekend have been postponed. The Blue Jays series with the Philadelphia Phillies this weekend has also been postponed after two members of the Phillies staff tested positive for the virus.

The St. Louis Cardinals announced Friday two of their players have tested positive for the virus as well.

“We’re going to have more cases. That’s a given,” Drew said.

“What will be the impact upon the season and the potential for championships?” she continued. “How valuable will we see that series ring, or the Stanley Cup Final, or the NBA Championship?”

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.

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