Baseball’s Long Road Back Continues, In Pictures

No two seasons are exactly alike.

The players, the managers, the teams, the storylines—they all change from year to year, keeping each new season fresh and exciting while the game of baseball remains comforting and familiar.

Even in that context, the 2020 season is unlike any other in baseball history.

The season began in July. The schedule is 60 games long. No fans are allowed in ballparks, at least to start. Extra innings will begin with a runner on second base. The DH will be used in the National League.

And that’s just Major League Baseball. The minor league season was canceled entirely. So, too, were the high school and college seasons and the Cape Cod League. Across the country, new leagues with names like the Constellation League, Lemonade League and Wild Wild West League have sprung up to give players a place to play.

The reason for it all is the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, first arrived in the U.S in late winter. It has infected more than 3 million people nationwide and killed more than 135,000 in less than half a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its spread led to the closures of businesses, schools and, of course, professional sports.

The NBA and NHL shut down, as did MLB. The start of the college football season remained in limbo. Through mid-July, both the number of cases and the rates of positive tests were increasing across the nation, though the mortality rate had thankfully declined.

It is in this uncertain context that baseball is returning. To get even here required a gargantuan, and often tumultuous, effort. And we are seeing this week, as the Marlins sit idle amid a virus outbreak within its clubhouse and the Blue Jays ready to host the Phillies in Citizens Bank Park, the road to finishing a season is just as fraught. 

Below are several images we felt best encapsulated baseball’s attempt to return in 2020. Special thanks to Tom DiPace, Bill Mitchell, Brian Westerholt and Mike Janes for their contributions. 

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