Major League Baseball players won’t be required to take a COVID-19 vaccination, though it will be strongly encouraged by the players’ union and the league when the time comes.
The voluntary program won’t proceed until health officials deem it appropriate, but players who are otherwise eligible for a vaccine, before league implementation, will be allowed to receive one, according to the 108-page health and safety protocols agreed upon by the league and the union Monday night.
The detailed document covers everything from the start of spring training to a potential delay to the start of the postseason if regular-season games need to be completed. It even includes more than a dozen diagrams outlining socially distanced drills for teams to perform in spring training.
Players will be required to wear Kinexon wristbands at team facilities in order to conduct contact tracing in case of a positive test. They’ll also be subject to fines based on days missed, due to quarantines, if they don’t follow the health and safety protocols which mimic many of the same guidelines from last year:
Players are prohibited from gatherings of 10 or more people;
No indoor dining;
Bars and lounges are prohibited even if they serve food;
Players must receive permission to leave their hotels while on the road.
Before arriving at spring training, players will be required to self-quarantine for five days and fill out a health questionnaire. They’ll undergo intake testing once in Arizona or Florida and, similar to last season, testing will continue at least every other day throughout spring training and the regular season.
Players will be allowed to opt out of the season, without pay, but can choose to return by petitioning its club.
Early spring games won’t operate under normal rules. From Feb. 27 to March 13, managers can agree on playing shortened games of five or seven innings. They can also end innings before three outs have been made, and re-entry for pitchers will be permissible. From March 14 until the end of spring training, games will last the normal nine innings unless both managers agree to play seven.
In-game access to video terminals by players won’t be permitted, but under the IPAD Dugout Program, players will be able to watch video of previous at-bats, but without the ability to see the catcher’s signs.
All health and safety protocols will be subject to review as the season progresses and vaccines become more widely distributed.
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