NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball is delaying the start of its season by at least two weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak and suspended the rest of its spring training game schedule. Opening day had been scheduled for March 26.
Minor League Baseball, including the El Paso Chihuahuas, also followed suit and said the start of their season would be delayed indefinitely.
The Chihuahuas discussed the delay at a press briefing along with the Locomotive soccer team at Southwest University Park, the stadium the two clubs share. (You can watch that news conference in the video player at the bottom of this article.)
The announcements Thursday said the decisions were made “due to the national emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic."
Statement from Minor League Baseball ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/H4RlAyPxxw— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) March 12, 2020
Spring training games were suspended as of 4 p.m. EDT Thursday. Qualifying games for the 2021 World Baseball Classic also were called off.
MLB had continued to play into Thursday and the announcement came while some exhibitions were still going on. But baseball changed course after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he strongly recommended to local authorities and organizers that they limit all mass gatherings.
“MLB and the clubs have been preparing a variety of contingency plans regarding the 2020 regular season schedule,” the commissioner's office said in a statement. “MLB will announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time and will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible.”
The March 26 start had been baseball's earliest scheduled opening other than for international games.
MLB had not had a mass postponement of openers since 1995, when the season was shortened from 162 games to 144 following a 7 1/2-month strike that also wiped out the 1994 World Series. Opening day was pushed back from April 2 to April 26.