A true sign of spring

While it may not look like it, the first sign of spring has arrived. The MLB has approved the start of spring training and teams are reporting to their facilities early as Feb. 16. Given the increase of COVID-19 protocols and travel restrictions, this year’s training will look different.

East Coast Grapefruit league teams will play each other for a total of 24 games in 30 days. The Cactus League will stay in Arizona to limit travel across state lines. The West Coast Grapefruit teams in Florida will split into two groups and play among the groups in order to limit travel. They, too, will play 28 games in 30 days.

The regular season will open on April 1. barring any spikes in cases or local governments stopping games based on local restrictions. Some states such as New York will allow fans in the stadiums for the upcoming season. In New York, Gov. Cuomo announced that “all arenas and stadiums in New York will be permitted to have fans in attendance at events starting on Feb. 23.” This comes after the Buffalo Bills were allowed to have fans in attendance for their Jan. 16 playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens. Other states may follow suit.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Blue Jays are waiting to hear if they will call the Rogers Center their home this season. In the shortened 2020 season, the Blue Jays were unable to play their games in Canada after the Canadian government said no. Blue Jays owner Mark Shapiro says he is optimistic that the team will be able to play at home this season, “On one side, we are optimistic and hopeful and absolutely clear that (the Rogers Centre) is where we want to be, but we don’t have the luxury to just plan for that,” Shapiro said on Friday during a Zoom call with Toronto media. “We need to actively plan for alternatives.”

The first spring training games are scheduled to start on Feb. 28 and the official season begins on April 1.