The fear of Coronavirus outbreak in Northwest Washington has led to Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s announcement to restrict gatherings of 250 or more people in King County. The Seattle Mariners are scheduled to open the 2020 regular season in just over two weeks on March 26, beginning with a four-game weekend series hosting the Texas Rangers. They immediately follow that opening series by hosting three games against the Minnesota Twins.
The Mariners have already mentioned that it’s not out of the question that they begin the regular season playing home games at their Spring Training home in Peoria, Ariz. The setting would provide for interesting regular season baseball, but is it the best solution for the Mariners?
Here are some potential venues the Mariners should consider playing home games in until they receive the all-clear to return to Seattle.
Arizona is far removed from Seattle and the further the games get into April, the more elevated the temperatures in the Valley of the Sun. The Peoria Sports Complex offers a maximum seating capacity of 12,339, including the grass berm seating area. The Mariners players are already residing in temporary rentals for Spring Training and extending those stays would seem more convenient for players and staff. Still, it is a facility intended for exhibition baseball and removed from Seattle but still a safer option for preventing virus spread. This is the early favorite to host Seattle’s early season home games.
Nat Bailey Stadium was the Pacific Coast League home of the Vancouver Canadians for many years and is just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from T-Mobile Park for ambitious Mariners fans. The 6,500-seat venue is close in size to Peoria’s ballpark and would provide home games to fans in the Seattle Mariners geographic region. Of course, it’s not a domed or retractable-roof ballpark and could be chilly for fans and players alike in the late March and early April Mariners home games.
Olympic Stadium was an active MLB ballpark within the past 20 years and has hosted MLB spring training games in recent seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays. A grassroots effort is ongoing to return baseball to Montreal and what better way to test the market than by providing French-Canadian fans regular season baseball? Giving Montreal temporary access to meaningful baseball games would be a wonderful gauge for interest by the powers that be at MLB.
San Juan, P.R.
Hiram Bithorn Stadium was the temporary co-home field for the former Montreal Expos in their latter days and has hosted many regular season special event games in recent years. The citizens of Puerto Rico have shown up for these games in the past and provide high energy for the games that are played in that venue. The stadium has a maximum capacity of 18,264, which is more than the Peoria facility. MLB sending games and revenue to Puerto Rico would be a nice gesture to an island that has suffered natural disasters in recent years.
T-Mobile Ballpark is still the home of the Seattle Mariners and will be once the coronavirus is under control and fans are allowed to return. We witnessed the Baltimore Orioles play a regular season game in an empty ballpark during the Baltimore Riots of 2015 and the Mariners may just consider this option for first seven games. Obviously, this will be a very eerie and costly option for the Seattle franchise but, with the uncertainty surrounding the eventual lift of this ban, may be considered an alternative for the club.
Houston’s mayor has recently referenced a similar events ban to that of Seattle that would impact the Astros’ home opener against the Angels in two weeks, so the Mariners may be the first of many clubs forced to find alternative venues or play in empty ballparks in the coming weeks.
While the obvious focus is on the well-being of the citizens of Washington and all areas being affected by COVID-19, it remains to be seen how the spread of this virus will affect the rest of the league in 2020. While the hope is that the virus is contained and business is back to usual for MLB in 2020, this is new territory for the sport and something that remains fluid this week.