The Philadelphia Phillies could see a return to some semblance of normalcy as early as next Friday, following Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf granting permission for professional sports to resume.
Philadelphia moved a step closer to a restart as it pertains to pro sports, with the Governor making an update to his guidance on the matter in collaboration with Philadephia’s professional sports teams this week.
“Professional sports, defined as any sporting event at which the participants are paid by a league or team, or at which individuals or teams receive prizes or purse, are allowed to practice or play in the yellow and green phases of reopening without on-site or venue spectators if the team (or league on behalf of the team) has developed a COVID-19 safety plan,” a press release reads.
“Such a plan must be approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and include, among other requirements, testing or screening and monitoring of all on-venue players and personnel. Also, no fans or spectators may be permitted on interior or exterior venue property. Professional sports organizations are encouraged to contact the Wolf Administration to share their reopening plans and get them approved by the Department of Health.”
For the Phillies, a safety and reopening plan must be approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, as indicated above. The plan must include testing and screening methods for everyone who will be at the Citizens Bank Park but, as expected, fans will not be allowed to spectate and there’s still no indication as to when that will change. Of course, COVID-19 must cease to be a threat before fans can return to sporting venues.
The team will be free to commence spring training at their home stadium instead of their Clearwater facilities and would be on track to play regular-season games by the rumored July start date should the MLB and MLBPA come to terms. As it stands, the MLBPA is reported to be unhappy with the latest proposal from the league.
One of the biggest issues, with regards to sports and its resumption, is player fitness. Athletes haven’t been able to train as they normally would and, although many professional sports people have gyms built into their homes, there are also plenty who do not have access to the requisite facilities at the moment given the quarantine stipulations.
Leagues will allow teams to put players through mini training camps before they can go about having games again as the risk of injury and general performance dips will be higher after several weeks of being away. Nothing can replace the in-game action players need to reach peak levels and it will be difficult to hop back into a campaign after staying home this long.
In addition to ensuring the safety of athletes during the current pandemic, teams will also need to make determinations as to whether their players are fit to resume regular play or not. So how do they tell when a professional is match fit?
According to Richard Collinge, the Head of Medical Services at English Premier League club West Ham United, there are several things to consider.
“There are different aspects to it,” he explains. “The science behind it all is now a major guide as to objectively clearing a player to return to training and then to return to a match, but the player has to also be psychologically ready. Those two things have to match, otherwise that player is not going to be ready to play.”
“That’s definite – we will not allow a player back to an international game without playing any games beforehand, so that we can evaluate their match fitness,” Tumi Masekela, strength and conditioning coach for the South Africa men’s cricket team,” says. Cricket is the sport that is most similar to baseball but the two disciplines are still vastly different.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia will enter the yellow reopening phase on June 5, which will also allow for outdoor dining. But, while Wolf’s guidelines bring the state closer to a return to sports, the MLB and MLBPA will have to agree on a deal before baseball can resume.