This time tomorrow, the Pirates will be gathering at PNC Park to begin preparing (again) for the 2020 season, aka Baseball in the Time of COVID-19. Since the pandemic first hit Pennsylvania in March, Pittsburgh has been routinely praised for its low level of infections and deaths, as the city basically slammed closed. That all changed this past week, though, when Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh is located, experienced spikes in new cases. This is being blamed on newly reopened and therefore packed bars, which the county will be closing today until further notice.
As of this writing, it hasn’t been publicly reported that anyone in the Pirates organization has tested positive for the virus. That’s not stopping people from making panicked posts on social media that this season is doomed because someone’s inevitably going to catch the ‘rona and infect the whole team now that Pittsburgh’s in a spike. In a BD Twitter poll, 67% of the respondents believe that the whole of the scheduled sixty games will not be played.
As we’ve all learned, coronovirus thrives in enclosed places with a lot of people. With the exception of Milwaukee’s Miller Park, all the stadiums that the Pirates will play in are open (and Miller Park’s roof is only closed in cold or inclement weather). Despite some chirping elsewhere that fans might be allowed in MLB parks around August, I seriously doubt that’s happening, even if the infection numbers drop off dramatically. If crowds gather on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail or the Roberto Clemente Bridge, where one has pretty clear views into PNC, I’d guess they’d be broken up pretty quickly.
All everybody can do is follow the protocols. These are young, healthy guys. Yes, there will always be outliers, but someone pulling a scene from The Stand and dropping dead in the middle of the basepaths is not going to happen. They will get their temperatures taken, wear masks, wash their hands a lot, and stay away from vulnerable people.
That’s all they—we—can do.