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MLB: Play ball! 'Summer Camp' opens as league returns to action

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Major League Baseball training camps reopened on Wednesday, marking a critical step toward bringing back America’s pastime amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

FILE PHOTO: Aug 28, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) hits a double against the Seattle Mariners during the ninth inning at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports.

MLB and its players’ association agreed to a shortened, 60-game 2020 campaign last week with no fans in attendance and each team’s first game on July 23 or July 24, after weeks of negotiations cast doubt on whether the season would open at all.

Wednesday marks the league’s “mandatory reporting date,” though players and staff must go through testing prior to entering team facilities. The first workouts and “full baseball activities” begin on Friday.

Dubbed “Summer Camp,” the workouts pick up where spring training left off in March, when the COVID-19 outbreak put the season on indefinite hold and players were allowed to leave training sites in Arizona and Florida.

Some of those facilities were closed earlier this month, including the Philadelphia Phillies’ Clearwater, Florida, center, after players and staff tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Minor League Baseball, meanwhile, said on Tuesday that it was cancelling its season for the first time in more than a century.

‘THERE’S AN ADVANTAGE’

The New York Mets and New York Yankees said they had worked with the governor’s office to bring players from Florida to train in their Big Apple homes, as new cases surged in several states and New York moved to impose quarantines on some visitors.

Yankees Manager Aaron Boone told reporters on Wednesday that the season - which would normally play out over 162 games - will present numerous challenges.

“(In)the 162-game normal season, you’re gonna face adversity and you have to be able to handle that as a major league player,” said Boone. “I think you can add another layer, obviously, to that this year. This is going to be challenging.

“Just by math, obviously, the games mean more,” said Boone. “An injury early on to one or several guys ends up being a quarter, half or all of the season.”

The Yankees, who will hold their first team workout Saturday, were defeated in last season’s American League Championship Series in six games by the Houston Astros, whose sign-stealing scandal would later engulf MLB’s offseason.

Reporting By Amy Tennery; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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