Baseball stadiums across the U.S. were uncharacteristically empty and silent Thursday — no cheers, no beers, no jeers for the umpires.
The coronavirus outbreak forced Major League Baseball to cancel the springtime tradition of Opening Day, when teams play the first of what are supposed to be 162 games for the right to go to the World Series in October.
The 30 big league teams canceled the last two weeks of spring training and originally pushed opening day from March 26 until April 9.
But with social distancing, nationwide lockdowns and no clear sign the coronavirus outbreak will ease anytime soon, baseball has postponed the 2020 season indefinitely, at a cost of what is likely to be billions of dollars.
“Our primary concern isn’t preparing for the baseball season,” Seattle Mariners General Manager Jerry Dipoto told reporters. “It’s making sure we stay as healthy as we can and that we’re doing our part in a public health crisis to not spread this thing any further than it already has or will.”
Baseball officials have been considering a number of ways to salvage the season if and when it gets under way, including shortened games and more double-headers to play as complete a season as possible. They could also extend games into October, meaning the World Series could be played in winterlike temperatures or perhaps a neutral site in a warmer city.
“As soon we can go, we all want to go play baseball,” Baltimore Orioles general manager Mike Elias said. “I think it will mean a lot to the country when we’re back playing baseball again, too. So the sooner the better.”
And not just for fans and players — the sooner the better for stadium workers who take tickets, sell food and souvenirs, and maintain the parks. Each of the 30 teams has committed $1 million to cover the lost wages for stadium workers, but that will not help the restaurants, hotels, food vendors and parking lots in surrounding neighborhoods.
For now, fans have to grill their own hot dogs, pour their own beer, pop their own corn and be content with replays of classic games many teams are offering online until the words “play ball” ring out again.