NEW YORK — Major League Baseball will air 30 games across its digital platforms Thursday, giving fans plenty of hardball to choose from on an opening day postponed by the coronavirus pandemic.
With its season delayed until at least mid-May, MLB will air one memorable game for each franchise on its YouTube, Twitter and Facebook pages.
The list, which you can find at this link, includes Dave Roberts’ series-shifting stolen base for the Boston Red Sox in Game 4 of the 2003 AL Championship Series, the Chicago Cubs ending their championship drought in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, and perfect games by Félix Hernández and Mark Buehrle.
MLB Network plans to broadcast classic opening day games throughout the day, including Derek Jeter’s debut in 1996, and SiriusXM also plans to carry memorable season openers. ESPN2 is airing a Home Run Derby marathon starting with Pete Alonso’s impressive show from last summer.
Stadiums coast-to-coast will be eerily silent for opening day.
From Baltimore to Miami in the east, San Diego to Seattle in the west — and 11 other cities that would have hosted season openers Thursday — there will be no games, or at the remaining 15 MLB stadiums, for at least a couple of more months.
By then, when the weather will be warmer, the Rangers will be able to stay out of the heat by closing the retractable roof at their $1 billion-plus stadium, the only new major league ballpark opening this season.
After the postponement of a Chris Stapleton concert that was to be the inaugural event at Globe Life Park on March 14, only three days after an open house that went on as scheduled, the Rangers were supposed to play an exhibition game there this week. Their home opener was set for next Tuesday after a season-opening series in Seattle.
“The stadium was 100 percent ready to go,” said Casey Rapp, GM of the new Rangers stadium for Delaware North Sportservice, which also oversees concessions for 10 other MLB ballparks. “It’s the little things that we were trying to make perfect.”
While there was plenty of time to finish construction of Globe Life Park, Rapp and his group haven’t yet been able to serve people during a full-scale event at the stadium.
Concessionaires start planning months in advance of the openers. That means a lot of products, such as hot dogs, bottled beverages and frozen foods, had already been delivered to many ballparks before the season was put on hold.
“It’s definitely different … it’s kind of unheard of (that) all the major sports inside the United States would be closed at the exact same time,” said Ken Gaber, vice president of operational excellence for Delaware North Sportservice. “Personally, it’s difficult. I think everybody feels the exact same way.”
Delaware North has donated to local charities more than 41,000 pounds of food, including perishable items already sent to MLB stadiums it operates, and concessions from its other venues, including some NBA and NHL arenas suddenly shut down in the middle of those seasons. There were also several spring training venues at the peak of their schedules.
The World Series champion Washington Nationals have reduced staff at Nationals Park, where a facilities group is still maintaining the ballpark and putting on the finishing touches for the season.
“Prior to every baseball season, you’re always working very aggressively to get ready for opening day. That’s a fixed date and time and you just have to be ready,” said Frank Gambino, Washington’s senior vice president of ballpark operations. “We had been working very diligently, and continue to work diligently, to try and get as close as we can to ready for whenever opening day eventually comes.”
Gambino said the Nationals were able to defer many of the concession deliveries and stocking of the stadium while monitoring the COVID-19 situation.
There have been no reports of any MLB players testing positive for the novel coronavirus. Two minor leaguers in the Yankees system did, and the Red Sox closed down their entire spring training complex in Fort Myers, Florida, this week after saying that one of their minor league players had tested positive.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.
The Baltimore Orioles were scheduled to open at home Thursday against the Yankees, likely with a clean-shaven Cole on the mound for the visitors. Camden Yards will be ready whenever the season finally starts, and the Orioles hope to maintain the enthusiasm that was whipped up for the team throughout a now-extended offseason.
“The bright spot in this sort of cloudy day is that our fans will be craving baseball,” said Jennifer Grondahl, the Orioles vice president of community development and communications. “If we can put together a season and the entertainment that we have planned and add to that, I feel like we’ll be able to continue that momentum.”
AP Sports Writers Stephen Hawkins, David Brandt in Phoenix; Howard Fendrich in Washington, DC; David Ginsburg in Baltimore; and Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this report. TEGNA staff contributed to this report.