Driving from one city to the next for games, umpiring entire homestands, even staying at team hotels. Those are just a few of the things under contemplation for umpires as Major League Baseball works towards restarting, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
And like the players, umpires need another round of ‘spring training’ to prepare for the upcoming 60-game season. A crew of three will report to each summer league camp on July 10. After passing Covid-19 testing, they’ll work live bullpen sessions and intra-squad games, culminating in a few regional-based exhibition contests, featuring the six umpires who have been embedded with the two teams.
Once the season begins, umpires will still have to travel the country but perhaps at a reduced rate than normal. Usually, a crew works a series then moves on, making sure they rotate around the league so as not to grow grudges based on the same teams seeing the same umpires all the time. Now, if the schedule permits, that umpiring crew might stay a team’s entire homestand, helping reduce travel.
If umpires are in a two-team city, like Chicago and New York, or in the Los Angeles/Anaheim area or San Francisco and Oakland, they might bounce from one park to the other. Perhaps, after working a series in Los Angeles, they’ll drive the hour down to San Diego — or the five up to the Bay Area.
Safety is of utmost importance to a group that is naturally at higher risk simply due to age. It’s unclear if there will be an opt-out program for higher risked individuals like there will be for players. In other words, will umpires who opt out for health reasons still be paid? Unlike players, MLB umpires are paid year round, so they have received 4.5 months of their salary already — through May 15. Also, a higher risk is working inside in the replay room in New York. Every crew normally rotates in there a couple times a year.
In discussion is whether they will wear face coverings underneath their masks behind home plate. Outdoor temperatures in July and August, especially, may not be conducive to wearing a mask under a mask. Umpires will go through Covid-19 testing just like Tier 1 players and coaches.
There won’t be much in the way of on field arguments, at least not face-to-face, which has been a staple for the game for as long as anyone can remember. With no fans in the stands, umpires will be able to hear everything from the dugout, so reduced trolling might be in order. And lineup changes will most likely be yelled from a distance, to keep managers and umpires socially distanced from each other.
Source: ESPN MLB