MLB's return contingent on one major thing, Rob Manfred says

Baseball was in the middle of spring training when it decided to delay the start of Opening Day

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday baseball would not be returning until given the proper clearance from health care officials and downplayed reported contingency plans for starting the season.

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Manfred spoke to Maria Bartiromo in an exclusive interview on “Mornings with Maria.” He said the improvement of public health is key for when the sport is going to be able to return.

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“The only decision we have made, the only real plan that we have, is that baseball is not going to return until the public health situation is improved to the point that we’re comfortable that we can play games in a manner that is safe for our players, our employees, our fans and in a way that will not impact the public health situation adversely," Manfred said.

“Right now, it’s largely a waiting game. During that period, as you might expect any business would, we have engaged in contingency planning. We thought about how we might be able to return in various scenarios but again the key is the improvement in the public health situation.”

According to multiple reports, among the plans MLB was looking at was keeping all 30 teams and players in Arizona and having them play in the 11 ballparks within the Phoenix area. League officials didn’t dismiss the talk but instead said last week many plans were on the table.

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Manfred explained that the league's “ideas” were designed to address any possible obstacles that could occur when the league gets the OK to play again.

“We have a variety of contingency plans that we have talked about and worked on," he said. "Plans may be too strong a word. Ideas … may be a better word. All of them are designed to address limitations that may exist when businesses restart – travel limitations, limitations on mass gatherings that may still exist. We thought about ways to try and make baseball available to all the fans across the United States in the face of those restrictions."

“So from our perspective we don’t have a plan, we have lots of ideas. What ideas come to fruition will depend on what the restrictions are, what the public health situation is. But we are intent on the idea of trying to make baseball part of the recovery – the economic recovery – and sort of a milestone on the return of normalcy.”

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Baseball was in the middle of spring training when it decided to delay the start of Opening Day following the coronavirus outbreak. MLB suspended its season, as did other major American sports leagues, after two NBA players tested positive for COVID-19.