Arizona's Cactus League asks MLB to delay start of spring training due to COVID-19 concerns


(RADIO.COM Sports) We're less than one month away from pitchers and catchers reporting for MLB spring training -- well, at least for the time being.

Uncertainty continues to hover over the start of spring training as COVID-19 cases across the country continue to rise, particularly in Arizona, which has one of the highest infection rates in the country and is home to 15 MLB spring training sites as part of the Cactus League.

On Friday, Arizona’s Cactus League sent a letter to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, which included support from local mayors and city managers of all eight Cactus League cities, asking to delay the start of spring training until the COVID-19 situation improves.

The letter cited statistics from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which projected a sharp decline in infections across the state by mid-March, estimating a drop from 9,712 daily infections on Feb. 15 to 3,072 daily infections on March 15.

Yet, the Cactus League has no authority over when to start or stop spring training.

That is a decision that belongs to MLB, which still needs to figure out some unanswered health-and-safety questions with the MLB Players Association before spring training begins in mid-February, according to ESPN reporter Jeff Passan.

In a memo to teams that was obtained by 670 The Score, MLB told teams it's monitoring the situation.

“As we have previously said publicly, we will continue to consult with public health authorities, medical experts and the Players Association whether any schedule modifications to the announced start of spring training and the championship seasons should be made in light of the current COVID-19 environment to ensure the safety of players, coaches, umpires, MLB employees and other gameday personnel in a sports that plays every day,” MLB said.

There's also an economic perspective to consider when it comes to spring training, too.

KNPX TV reporter Brahm Resnik, who first reported on the letter Monday, noted that January through May is peak tourism season for Maricopa County and the Cactus League alone draws 1.5 million to 2 million fans per year, although with limitations and restrictions, it will probably be less than that this year.

The teams that play in the Cactus League are the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland A’s, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers.

As of now, everything is scheduled to occur on time, but as with all things COVID, it could all change at a moment’s notice.

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