FORT WORTH, Texas -- Major League Baseball isn't yet prepared to unveil its 60-game schedule for 2020 as it monitors COVID-19 spikes nationwide and considers if it would be safe to play games in certain cities.
That includes Arlington, where the Texas Rangers are dealing with their own outbreak in the offices at Globe Life Field. Nevertheless, the Rangers expect to open the season July 24 and hope to do so at their new $1.2 billion home with fans in the stands.
While MLB will be mindful of local ordinances, the league will have a say in that decision, too.
"The commissioner has made no decisions regarding permitting fans at games," MLB said in a statement. "The decision will be based both on whether local health authorities approve fans to attend games and whether our medical advisors believe it is appropriate to do so."
The statement appears to be a shift in position by MLB, which last week was leaning toward letting local health officials work with clubs on allowing fans while staying largely in the background. Last Wednesday, the Rangers said they were working toward a plan that would allow them to fill 50% of their 40,000 seats, per the current phase of the governor's Reopen Texas plan.
By Friday, the number of positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations began to rise statewide and Gov. Greg Abbott ordered instituted rollback measures to the state's reopening plan. Bars were closed, restaurant capacity was reduced to 50% and outside gatherings of more than 100 people without the approval of local officials were banned.
Sports venues can hold far more than 100 people, but the Reopen Texas task force did not make changes to guidelines for professional sports leagues.
Not only would fans be in Globe Life Field, so would ushers, concession workers, cooks, wait staff, security and others required to stage an MLB game.
The safety protocols MLB is taking for players and club personnel are extensive, as detailed in the league's 113-page operations manual. Adding fans would make safety a massive undertaking.
"We're working with the understanding that we could have fans in the building beginning on Opening Day," Rangers executive vice president Rob Matwick said last week. "It is based on local jurisdiction, but we are also part of a league. They do have some input and we want that input."