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MLB ballparks will remain eerily empty on ‘opening day’ – Sportsnet.ca

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ARLINGTON, Texas — There will be no hot dogs on the grill, no beer on tap, no vendors in the stands selling peanuts and Cracker Jack.

The shiny new stadium deep in the heart of Texas will still be waiting for its first Rangers game. Instead of warming up for his debut with the New York Yankees after a record $324 million, nine-year contract, Gerrit Cole is playing catch with his wife at home.

With the start of the Major League Baseball season indefinitely on hold because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, ballparks will be empty Thursday on what was supposed to be opening day.

“You’re used to seeing people run all over the place. We have over 200 people (who work) at the park,” said Roger Bossard, the groundskeeper in his 54th year with the Chicago White Sox. “Certainly, it’s eerie when no one’s around. You walk around the hallways or underneath the stands there, and there’s nobody there — but understandably.”

From Baltimore to Miami in the east, San Diego to Seattle in the west — and 11 other cities that would have hosted season openers Thursday — there will be no games, or at the remaining 15 MLB stadiums, for at least a couple of more months.

By then, when the weather will be warmer, the Rangers will be able to stay out of the heat by closing the retractable roof at their $1 billion-plus stadium, the only new major league ballpark opening this season.

After the postponement of a Chris Stapleton concert that was to be the inaugural event at Globe Life Park on March 14, only three days after an open house that went on as scheduled, the Rangers were supposed to play an exhibition game there this week. Their home opener was set for next Tuesday after a season-opening series in Seattle.

“The stadium was 100 per cent ready to go,” said Casey Rapp, GM of the new Rangers stadium for Delaware North Sportservice, which also oversees concessions for 10 other MLB ballparks. “It’s the little things that we were trying to make perfect.”

While there was plenty of time to finish construction of Globe Life Park, Rapp and his group haven’t yet been able to serve people during a full-scale event at the stadium.

Concessionaires start planning months in advance of the openers. That means a lot of products, such as hot dogs, bottled beverages and frozen foods, had already been delivered to many ballparks before the season was put on hold.

“It’s definitely different … it’s kind of unheard of (that) all the major sports inside the United States would be closed at the exact same time,” said Ken Gaber, vice-president of operational excellence for Delaware North Sportservice. “Personally, it’s difficult. I think everybody feels the exact same way.”

Delaware North has donated to local charities more than 41,000 pounds of food, including perishable items already sent to MLB stadiums it operates, and concessions from its other venues, including some NBA and NHL arenas suddenly shut down in the middle of those seasons. There were also several spring training venues at the peak of their schedules.

The World Series champion Washington Nationals have reduced staff at Nationals Park, where a facilities group is still maintaining the ballpark and putting on the finishing touches for the season.

“Prior to every baseball season, you’re always working very aggressively to get ready for opening day. That’s a fixed date and time and you just have to be ready,” said Frank Gambino, Washington’s senior vice-president of ballpark operations. “We had been working very diligently, and continue to work diligently, to try and get as close as we can to ready for whenever opening day eventually comes.”

Gambino said the Nationals were able to defer many of the concession deliveries and stocking of the stadium while monitoring the COVID-19 situation.

There have been no reports of any MLB players testing positive for the novel coronavirus. Two minor leaguers in the Yankees system did, and the Red Sox closed down their entire spring training complex in Fort Myers, Florida, this week after saying that one of their minor league players had tested positive.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.

The Baltimore Orioles were scheduled to open at home Thursday against the Yankees, likely with a clean-shaven Cole on the mound for the visitors. Camden Yards will be ready whenever the season finally starts, and the Orioles hope to maintain the enthusiasm that was whipped up for the team throughout a now-extended off-season.

“The bright spot in this sort of cloudy day is that our fans will be craving baseball,” said Jennifer Grondahl, the Orioles vice-president of community development and communications. “If we can put together a season and the entertainment that we have planned and add to that, I feel like we’ll be able to continue that momentum.”

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Tokyo Olympics CEO hints Games could be in doubt even in 2021 – CBC.ca

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As the coronavirus spreads in Japan, the chief executive of the Tokyo Games said Friday he can’t guarantee the postponed Olympics will be staged next year — even with the long delay.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued an emergency declaration this week to battle the virus, putting the country under restrictions after it seemed it had avoided a significant outbreak.

“I don’t think anyone would be able to say if it is going to be possible to get it under control by next July or not,” Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto said, speaking through an interpreter at a news conference conducted remotely. “We’re certainly are not in a position to give you a clear answer.”

The Olympics were postponed last month with a new opening set for July 23, 2021, followed by the Paralympics on Aug. 24.

WATCH | Damian Warner on bright side of Olympic postponement: 

Olympic bronze medallist in decathlon Damian Warner didn’t dwell on disappointment, but instead chooses to focus on getting even better for a 2021 Olympics. 1:10

Abe has been criticized for being slow to act against the coronavirus. Opposition political leaders have suggested he downplayed the severity of the virus and have said it may have been tied to wanting to hold the Olympics this year.

“We have made the decision to postpone the Games by one year,” Muto said. “So this means that all we can do is work hard to prepare for the Games. We sincerely hope that come next year mankind will manage to overcome the coronavirus crisis.”

Muto was asked if there are alternative plans to holding the Games in 2021.

“Rather than think about alternatives plans, we should put in all of our effort,” he said. “Mankind should bring together all of its technology and wisdom to work hard so they can develop treatments, medicines and vaccines.”

WATCH | Flashback to Andre De Grasse’s 2016 showdown with Usain Bolt: 

Watch highlights of Andre De Grasse and Usain Bolt battling it out and building a bromance at the Rio 2016 Olympics. 0:43

Japan has reported about 5,000 cases and 100 deaths. The country has the world’s oldest population, and COVID-19 can be especially serious for the elderly.

Muto was asked several times about the added costs of postponing, which has been estimated by Japanese media at between $2 billion and $6 billion US. He said it was too soon to know the price tag and who would pay.

He also acknowledged that Tokyo Olympic organizers had taken out insurance.

“Tokyo 2020 has taken out several insurance policies,” he said. “But whether the postponement of the Games qualifies as an event that is covered is not clear yet.”

WATCH | Simone Biles cried after learning of Olympic postponement: 

The four-time Olympic champion broke her silence on the year-long postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, appearing on NBC’s ‘Today’ show on Wednesday morning. 0:33

He was also asked about the Olympic flame, which was taken off public display this week in Fukushima prefecture. Muto had an away-from-the-microphone talk with a spokesperson before talking about the flame.

“After the Olympic torch relay was cancelled, the Olympic flame was put under the management of Tokyo 2020,” Muto said. “Obviously in the future there is a possibility it might be put on display somewhere. However, for now it is under the management of Tokyo 2020 and I’m not going to make any further comment on the issue.”

There are suggestions the International Olympic Committee is thinking of taking the flame on a world tour, hoping to use it as a symbol of the battle against the virus. However, any tour would be impossible until travel restrictions are lifted.

Taking the flame away from Japan could also upset the hosts.

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Report: MLB considering divisional realignment for 2020 season – Sportsnet.ca

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In anticipation of an abbreviated 2020 season, one of many proposals MLB is reportedly considering is a major realignment that would eliminate the traditional American and National Leagues, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.

“The plan would have all 30 teams returning to their spring training sites in Florida and Arizona,” Nightengale writes, “playing regular-season games only in those two states and without fans in an effort to reduce travel and minimize risks in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The divisions would be realigned based on the geography of their spring training homes.”

The clubs would first be allowed three weeks of training, adds Nightengale, including exhibition games, before opening a regular season in divisions that could look like so:

GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE

NORTH: New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates.

SOUTH: Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles.

EAST: Washington Nationals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins.

CACTUS LEAGUE

NORTHEAST: Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Oakland Athletics.

WEST: Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels.

NORTHWEST: Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals.

The most significant change for the Blue Jays would be to a move out of the AL East, along with the Yankees, to play against their Grapefruit league opponents, which could mean an easier path to the playoffs for Toronto.

Nightengale elaborated on how the post-season format could potentially look under such a format.

“Baseball, even with the realignment, could still play 12 games apiece against their new divisional opponents and six games apiece against the other teams in the state. … The DH would likely be universally implemented as well. There could still be division winners and wild-card winners, perhaps adding two more wild-card teams to each league, or a postseason tournament with all 30 teams,” he wrote.

“The winner of the Cactus League in Arizona would play the winner of the Grapefruit League in Florida for the World Series championship, utilizing the domed stadiums in late November.”

No official decision has yet been made on when the league will return, or what exactly that return will look like.

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Joe Rogan gushes for ‘psychotic’ Dana White following UFC 249 cancelation — ‘He’s a real man’ – MMA Mania

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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White was not going to let a silly little thing like a global pandemic stop him from staging mixed martial arts (MMA) events, even if it meant taking his promotion to west coast tribal grounds or remote tropical islands to bypass local and federal quarantines.

So was he a hero … or an idiot?

That depends on who you ask. For longtime color commentator Joe Rogan, still on the fence about attending when word came in that UFC 249 was canceled, White is a “real man” who deserves praise for his dogged persistence in trying to make the “Ferguson vs. Gaethje” pay-per-view (PPV) event a reality.

“He’s a psychotic driving force for the most exciting organization in the world and I don’t think the organization gets where it is without Dana White,” Rogan said on his official podcast. “I think you have to have a crazy person at the wheel. You have a guy who doesn’t give a fuck. He’s a real man. He doesn’t give a fuck, he’ll talk shit, he’ll insult people, he’ll go back with you.”

White helped convince casino magnates Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta to purchase UFC back in 2001 for a paltry $2 million — which they later sold for $4 billion — and no question his drive and longterm vision helped shape the future of combat sports. The promotion would be nothing without the fighters, obviously, and White had a couple of big breaks along the way, but his contributions to MMA cannot be overstated.

“Imagine being the president of the UFC,” Rogan continued. “Imagine having all these fights that you have to make and having all this pressure on you, and you’re also a famous guy like Dana is. Imagine being that guy. Fuck that job. President of the UFC is second only to President of the United States. Bro, he’s under ridiculous amounts of pressure.”

White is also on the hook for the $750 million check from ESPN and parent company Disney, which requires 42 live events in 2020 to cash. Expect a very busy fight schedule once the promotion gets up and running later this year, though we’re at the mercy of coronavirus as far as that timeline is concerned.

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