BOSTON (CBS) — Major League Baseball has not given teams the green light to play ball yet. And with the league and the players association each holding firm in negotiations for a return, no one knows when — or if — baseball will be back.
But the Red Sox are already hard at work to make Fenway Park safer for players once they are allowed back. That process started in mid-March when MLB paused the season amid the coronavirus outbreak, and that hard work continues today.
“We shut down Fenway and brought in our cleaning partners to do a deep clean,” Red Sox president Sam Kennedy told WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton on Thursday. “It was a scene out of Outbreak — there were crews in hazmat suits sanitizing Fenway Park and we’ve kept it clean. The only people in the building right now are security folks.”
They did the same to JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida, (where a limited amount of players and staff are currently working out) and continue to explore ways to make both parks safer. That includes changing around the clubhouse at Fenway, since the 108-year old ballyard wasn’t really built for social distancing.
“As we think about a return to play, you may have to re-imagine the clubhouse as we know it. From the protocols we need to create more space between lockers, separate entrances and exits and different areas for the players to use. We are in the process right now of re-imagining what Fenway Park will look like upon a return to play,” said Kennedy.
“Of course, we’re all doing of this via Zoom and through text messaging and emailing and phone calls, so operationally it has been a tricky,” he said.
The grass is still a lovely green at Fenway, which we’ve seen from the various tributes to front-line workers they’ve had at the park. Kennedy said credit goes to senior groundskeeper Dave Mellor, one of the few people who remain on site.
“He’s keeping Fenway ready — with his mask on,” said Kennedy.
While MLB is exploring hub cities to host games — much like the NHL is planning in its return — Kennedy has high hopes that there will be baseball at America’s most beloved ballpark this season.
“The most important thing is doing whatever it takes to get back on the field and to get started. But the desire, as I understand it, is to get back to our Major League ballparks in our home cities. Of course that would start with no fans, but that would be a step in the right direction,” said Kennedy, hoping it’s possible — and appropriate — to have fans in attendance later in 2020. “Getting back into our home ballparks and showing our games on our home television networks, I think makes the most sense, and then you adjust as needed.
“Kudos to MLB, they probably have 75 scenarios and backup plans,” he added.
Kennedy said that it’s possible the Red Sox could play at JetBlue Park if it’s not safe for baseball to resume in Boston.
“What other sport has 30 mirror facilities in a different part of the country that can be used in case of an emergency,” he said. “You may have some states that don’t allow sports back with no fans, so they may have to use their spring training facilities. We’ve been in touch with Governor Baker and Mayor Walsh and communicated with them our desires to try and get back to Boston, and they’ve been open-minded to it. We’ll continue to work with them. Assuming we can satisfy their and our requirements for health and safety, hopefully it’s achievable.”
As for playing without fans in attendance, Kennedy said it would be an “eerie and strange” feeling.
“I think it will be a recognition and a symbol of just how deadly and dangerous this virus is, and how the public needs to be careful and cautious,” he said. “I hope it’s a short-term issue because Fenway is meant to be packed to the gills each and every night.”