MINNEAPOLIS — Plans are in motion.
Major League Baseball players have agreed to report to camp by July 1 with the potential of a season starting by late July. The MLB released a 60-game schedule late Tuesday night slating the season to begin July 23 or 24.
The games will initially be played with no crowds, but as the summer goes along, is there a chance fans could be watching live baseball at Target Field?
"It certainly is possible," said Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann during a COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday.
Much like everything else pertaining to the coronavirus, the situation is fluid. Case numbers will continue to be monitored and settings will be evaluated for safety concerns, but should the right combination of low transmission numbers and high attentiveness of social distancing transpire, fans could be treated to a live showing of America's Favorite Pastime.
"As a player, we want to be up there," said Twins slugger Nelson Cruz earlier this week in a Zoom interview with KARE 11. "Fans want to see us play and I think we should bring the joy that only baseball can bring to the people."
That joy will initially come from watching or listening from home. The first stage of the season will be played in empty ballparks in an effort to protect fans amid the coronavirus pandemic. As of right now, there is no fan policy in place, but that could change leading up to the start of the season.
There will be a number of other changes as well, including no high-five celebrations, a designated hitter in the National League and a runner on second base to start out extra innings.
Oh yeah, and the season will be a 60-game sprint to the finish line instead of the typical 162-game marathon.
But at the end of the day, it's still baseball. It will provide a glimpse of normalcy in an otherwise unprecedented time. Safety will obviously be the No. 1 priority when it comes to players and spectators, so anything -- and everything -- could still be altered.
"Let me tell you, there are a lot of people that I know that certainly hope that would be the case," Ehresmann said when asked about a potential scenario for live baseball. "They're very eager for the opportunity for in-person sports watching. But I think we'll have to see."
Ehresmann emphasized the risks involved with large gatherings and possible crowding when it comes to attending games at Target Field, but she said it's something they'll monitor as the season progresses.
"You want to be cautious because, as I said, you're bringing people together and if there's the opportunity for crowding, that's where we really see transmission happening," Ehresmann said.