The Nationals, Astros and Phillies all announced today that their players will no longer be signing autographs or shaking hands with fans. The decisions come as the highly contagious COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread throughout the country. The teams will instead occasionally distribute pre-signed balls and other materials.
The statements from the Nationals and Astros (who share a spring training facility) are identical, while the one from the Phillies is more truncated. MLB recently sent guidelines to teams about how to best combat the spread of the disease, which included avoided taking items such as balls and pens from fans. The Twins also recently put a no-contact policy in place.
It stinks that fans are losing a chance to interact with their favorite players, but it’s quite understandable that teams want to protect themselves.
The CDC says that it may be possible for the virus to spread by touching an object that an infected person has carried and then touching your mouth or eyes, and that people can carry the disease without showing visible symptoms. Baseball players frequently come into close contact with each other in dugouts and locker rooms, which means that it would be easy for an infected player to transmit COVID-19 from one another if one of them was sick.
Other sports leagues are taking preventative measures against COVID-19. NPB is playing their spring training games without fans in attendance, and the NBA sent out a memo to teams telling them to prepare to play regular season games under those same circumstances.
One imagines that more teams will introduce similar policies in the coming days as more COVID-19 cases are confirmed.
If you want to learn more about COVID-19, give the CDC’s site about the virus a read. Informing yourself is the most important first step.