Toomey Forum with MLB Reps, Phillies Star Rhys Hoskins, and Pirates GM Ben Cherington Spotlights Safety Procedures for Resuming Season
Teams Would Need Local, Commissioner Approval Before Fans Could Return
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) convened a virtual roundtable today on what Major League Baseball (MLB) is doing to keep players safe while resuming play. You can watch the full video here.
Joining Senator Toomey for the roundtable was Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Ben Cherington, MLB's Medical Director Dr. Gary Green, MLB's Senior VP and Deputy General Counsel Patrick Houlihan, Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins, and MLB Players Association Chief Operating Officer Xavier James.
Click the image to watch the video.
Select quotes from the participants of the roundtable are below.
Senator Pat Toomey
"Today we're going to hear from a really interesting panel who will provide the public with insight into the steps being taken to safely resume the Major League Baseball season in just a few short days. So many Americans who were sheltering in place, or out of work, or similarly suffering from the impacts of COVID-19, the understandable and necessary pause of professional sports meant that we didn't have one of our favorite pastimes, our favorite escapes from the rigors of everyday life. Fortunately, a great deal of work has gone into the safe resumption of professional sports, and luckily, with a few exceptions, baseball is a game that naturally lends itself to physical distancing between players. So with sensible health and safety protocols, like those we'll hear about soon, I am optimistic that Major League Baseball can resume safely."
Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Ben Cherington
"An undertaking like this, which is monumental I would say, is not going to come off without a hitch. It's not going to be a perfectly smooth road. But the effort that's gone in to trying to give us a chance to bring baseball back at the major league level, continuing to make adjustments around that, to give ourselves a chance to get to Opening Day and beyond, to me has been really impressive and something I've been proud to be a part of."
"As close as we're getting to Opening Day, I think we have to stay disciplined and continue to collaborate to find solutions. We certainly get more optimistic the closer we get, and it's been exciting to see our players out there, and Rhys and the Phillies, every team in baseball starting to play games."
When asked about the Toronto Blue Jays playing at PNC Park, he said:
"The reality is we need the Blue Jays to be able to play in order for all of us to play. We need 30 teams to be able to start the season. Right now, we have a problem that we need to solve, and that's helping the Blue Jays find a place to play."
MLB Medical Director Dr. Gary Green
"I kind of view testing as the final exam that tells you if you've been doing everything else correctly. When players reported at the end of June, we saw about a one percent positive rate. However, since they've begun training, that rate has dropped under 0.1%, which tells me that the players are taking this all very seriously and conducting themselves in a safe manner. This is especially significant when you think about that a third of our clubs are playing in areas that are having major hotspots for coronavirus with a very high rate of infection."
Senior Vice President & Deputy General Counsel for MLB Patrick Houlihan
"We have been working around the clock since March 12th to try find a way to get us back to the place we are today, which is with Opening Day around the corner. We took a patient, thoughtful, analytical, but most importantly a ‘safety first' approach to try to solve for the reality that we've been confronted with over the past several months. The commissioner has always said...that this was first and foremost always going to be about safety, and that the only way we were going to do this was if we could do it safely and protect everybody involved with this. And that was our mission from the beginning."
When asked about having fans at stadiums, he said:
"The Commissioner has been very clear that we're starting the season without fans and as you noted, there's good reasons for that. And they're health and safety related reasons. I think, we will consider the question as the season goes, if the conditions change. And like you said, it's going to require a lot of coordination with state and local officials on whether or not that's something that they're comfortable with. Obviously, first and foremost, if it is to be done, it's going to need to be done in a way that protects the health and safety of the fans and... the broader public. You don't want to be the reason why there are increased number of cases for the general public, because of congregation in ballparks. We have established that if clubs do, in the future, want to have fans in the ballpark, they're not only going to need to get permission from their local jurisdictions, but they're also going to need to get permission from the commissioner and he is going to consider those requests on a case by case basis and make a holistic determination on whether or not he thinks it's advisable.
Philadelphia Phillies First Baseman Rhys Hoskins
"After a lot of deliberating and consulting with experts about what needed to happen to make sure that we, the players, the staff, the coaching staff, but also the clubhouse staff, stadium staff, and all those people were as safe as they could be for the remainder of the season in the middle of a global pandemic. Lots of things are different, lots of things are weird. But we knew that was going to be the case. We're no longer eating in the kitchen; we're kind of eating outside, trying to be as spread out as we can. We're no longer prepping in the weight room; we're using the concourse or a large outdoor area to make sure we can stay socially distant and being outside is better than being indoors at this point. We're staggering our report times, which is rather different, instead of being able to show up basically whenever you think you needed to. These things are different and they are weird, but we knew coming in that we were going to have to accept it."
Chief Operating Officer for MLB Players Association Xavier James
"As you know, these are truly unprecedented times in the world, including of course, for our members, who along with the coaches, the umpires, and other staffers will be exposed to additional risk during a very unusual season. A couple of quick, hopefully salient, thoughts. Along with MLB, we're doing everything possible to mitigate the risk to the players and the rest of the staff, but there is no way to mitigate all risks, as you know. While we have a robust plan that includes frequent testing and extensive protocols, there's no guarantees and we will likely encounter things that we have not anticipated. Always like to quote the great Mike Tyson when I say ‘everyone has a plan until they get hit.' There is no way to anticipate every hit or every scenario. People should expect a very different presentation of the game on television, but the essence of the game will remain the same."