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After an entire career spent playing in front of huge crowds, Los Angeles Angels slugger Mike Trout is preparing himself for the inevitability that MLB games will be played without fans this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic.
MLB owners approved a comeback plan that calls for the 2020 season to begin during Fourth of July weekend, featuring an 82-game schedule played without fans in attendance and a host of safety measures in place. Trout, 28, supports a temporary fan-less model if it means pro baseball can return after a months-long delay to the 2020 season.
“It’s going to be strange,” Trout told FOX Business. “I think any baseball is better than no baseball, so if we have to do it, we have to do it. It’s definitely something to get used to. It’s the world we’re living in right now. If that’s what it takes to get back, obviously that’s what we’ve got to do to get back.”
Like other U.S. sports leagues, MLB has been at a standstill since mid-March, when the worsening coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to host games without endangering public health. MLB, the NBA and the NHL are preparing to play games without crowds for the foreseeable future, sacrificing hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue in the process.
The TV-only model is unprecedented territory for Trout and his fellow players, who face the prospect of playing games on a few weeks’ notice without the traditional stadium and clubhouse environment. A three-time American League MVP, Trout acknowledged the conditions will be a “huge adjustment” for teams.
“I think that’s going to be tough for a lot of guys because people feed off the electric crowds, people feed off the energy,” Trout said. “But I think everybody’s just anxious to get back. Obviously it’s got to be with the right amount of testing and there’s so much more stuff that’s involved with it.”
While MLB protocols have yet to be finalized, current plans call for unprecedented safety standards throughout the shortened season. The league will process up to 10,000 COVID-19 tests per week, according to documents obtained by The Athletic. High-fives and fist-bumps will be prohibited, as will chewing sunflower seeds or tobacco. Players will have to adhere to social distancing rules and baseballs will be frequently replaced.
The issue of MLB player pay during the pandemic is another point of friction. Owners support a 50-50 revenue split for the season, while players want prorated salaries based on what they would have earned in 2020 prior to the pandemic. League officials and players union representatives are in the midst of negotiations on compensation and the substance of MLB’s safety plan.
With the exact details of MLB’s comeback still uncertain, Trout is focused on staying in shape and being ready to play in the near future.
“It’s just a crazy time in sports right now. Obviously, everybody wants to get back quick, but it’s got to be safe,” he said. “It’s a tough time for this country. Like I said, I’m just training as much as I can, training every day, staying in shape, and whenever I get that call to get back on the field I’m going to be there.”