Cactus League asks MLB to delay spring training amid virus surge

Feb 27, 2020; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Madison Bumgarner reacts after giving-up a home run to Cincinnati Reds Derek Dietrich (35) in the second inning during a Cactus League game on Feb. 27, 2020 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher/Arizona Republic via USA TODAY NETWORK

The Cactus League and affiliated communities sent a letter to Major League Baseball asking for a delayed start to spring training as the coronavirus pandemic continues to overwhelm Arizona.

The league released the letter on Monday. It was dated Friday and signed by officials from eight cities and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

In all, 15 major league teams hold spring training in Arizona. But the letter made it clear that the greater Phoenix area, where 10 teams play, isn’t ready for baseball. The league schedule calls for games to begin on Feb. 27, with teams reporting about two weeks earlier.

“In view of the current state of the pandemic in Maricopa County — with one of the nation’s highest infection rates — we believe it is wise to delay the start of spring training to allow for the COVID-19 situation to improve here,” the letter states.

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Arizona reported 48,456 new cases in the past week, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That represented 95.1 cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, which leads the nation.

“We understand that any decision to delay spring training cannot be made unilaterally by MLB. As leaders charged with protecting public health, and as committed, longtime partners in the spring training industry, we want you to know that we stand united on this point,” the letter reads.

The letter was signed by the Cactus League’s executive director, Bridget Binsbacher; the mayors of Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa, Peoria, Scottsdale, Surprise and Tempe; Ed Zuercher, the city manager of Phoenix; and Martin Harvier, president of the Salt River community.

Each of those areas has stadiums that host at least one major league team. The other 15 teams hold spring training in the Grapefruit League in Florida, which had 52 cases per 100,000 residents in the past seven days, according to the CDC.

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MLB issued a statement in response to the letter, per the Los Angeles Times.

“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 Season should be made in light of the current COVID-19 environment to ensure the safety of the players, coaches, umpires, MLB employees and other gameday personnel in a sport that plays every day,” the statement reads.

–Field Level Media