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Telecommuting in Baseball’s Front Offices the New Reality

Ballpark DigestWith the 2020 MLB and MiLB seasons on hold while the United States battles a novel coronavirus pandemic, teams are imposing social distancing by implementing telecommuting and limiting ballpark access.

After MLB declared a hold on the 2020 season, MLB teams needed to map out a plan to transition from spring training to a regular season without knowing the start date. Some kept their training facilities open: New York Yankees players voted to stay in Tampa and continue with closed workouts at the Steinbrenner Field complex, while Many teams took the time to deep-clean their training facilities before deciding on the next step this offseason: the Cubs, for instance, scheduled a deep cleaning of the Nike Performance Center at the Sloan Park training complex and will announce later today whether players will stay in the Phoenix area or head to Wrigley Field. (Deep cleaning the spring training areas was also performed by the Giants, Orioles, Diamondbacks/Rockies and Pirates.) The Yankees also immediately changed their ballpark work situation, implementing telecommuting for most employees.

The telecommuting trend is also seen in the minor leagues. A typical example has the Lake County Captains (Low A; Midwest League) implement telecommuting for the time being. From the News-Herald:

Effective on March 16 and for “a minimum of two weeks,” Captains General Manager Jen Yorko said 15 team employees normally based at Classic Park in Eastlake will work primarily from home.

“We’re getting all the laptops ready,” Yorko said on March 13 as steps were taken to make the transition to remote operation.

For the duration of the shutdown of the team offices, Yorko added, there will be no fan access to the ballpark, ticket office or Cargo Hold gift shop.

“We’re playing it by ear and and keeping close tabs on what comes out of Governor DeWine’s office, the (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and (World Health Organization),” Yorko said.

So far it sounds like teams are willing to ride out the delay to the 2020 season: we’re not seeing any front-office reports of layoffs due to the coronavirus, and there are efforts out there to take care of hourly ballpark workers as well, at least on the MLB level: the Astros’ George Springer has pledged $100,000 toward Minute Maid Park employees, while teammate Alex Bregman donated 1,000 quarantine food kids aimed toward kids at home after school closings:

The Cincinnati Reds’ Trevor Bauer, meanwhile, launched a GoFundMe campaign to benefit MLB game-day employees:

One other area of concern with the postponement of the 2020 season: the effect it will have on businesses surrounding ballparks. With MLB becoming more and more an urban phenomena, the more and more business it has. In the Bronx, vendors near Yankee Stadium worry that further delays to the season will lead to their business’s demise. From the New York Post:

“Without the Yankees, without making enough money — we might close,” Mohamed Ahmed, who works at S&A Sports in the South Bronx, told the Daily News Friday.

Reclined in a chair behind the counter of his father’s empty store, Ahmed was babysitting the shirseys more than he was selling them, which is typical during the offseason. Located on River Avenue, diagonal from Yankee Stadium Gate 6, S&A is one of many small businesses owned by Yemeni-immigrants dotting the ballpark, responsible for huge backlogs of costly team apparel they won’t be able to sell for at least two weeks.

“When you run as a small business you buy a lot of [merchandise] from the big companies,” Ahmed said. “They really do not care if you work [or] if you don’t — they need their money.” He said he was working hard to postpone the orders, depending entirely on the mercy of his suppliers.

With hourly news about the spread of the coronavirus impacting the sports-business and facilities industries, it’s more important than ever to stay up with the latest news in the venues industry. That’s why we’re launching a new Venues Digest newsletter focusing on coronavirus information across the ballparks, arenas, stadiums, theater and performing-arts worlds. For now it will appear daily, and for now it will be free of charge. Sign up here.

RELATED STORIES: MLB, MiLB Season Openers Could Be Delayed to May; Surprise! Spring Training’s Canceled. What’s Next?MLB Season Delayed For Two Weeks, MiLB Season Indefinitely

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