The Blue Jays have shut down their Spring Training facility in Dunedin, Fla. after a player displayed symptoms of COVID-19, Jeff Passan of ESPN.com reports (Twitter thread). There’s no positive test yet, but Passan notes that the player in question is on Toronto’s 40-man roster and had recently spent time with players in the Phillies’ system. The Jays’ Dunedin complex is just six miles from the Phillies’ spring facility in Clearwater, where eight people — five players and three staffers — have tested positive for the coronavirus over the past three days. Another 32 tests of Phillies players and personnel are still pending results.
Scott Mitchell of TSN tweets that about 20 players have been working out at the Jays’ spring facility, including about 10 players who are on the 40-man roster. Passan adds, however, that multiple players have yet to even be tested at all — despite GM Ross Atkins telling him the team has been “overly precautious with testing.” Should reopening the Dunedin facilities untenable, that’d create problems for the Jays even if a 2020 season can come together. As Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith points out, Dunedin has been a fallback option in the event that government regulations prevent the Jays from hosting games at Toronto’s Rogers Centre.
The Blue Jays’ Dunedin closure adds to a growing list of concerns as professional sports teams have sought to begin play after months of shutdowns. Beyond the positive tests in Clearwater and the symptoms in Dunedin, it’s also important to note that the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning have shut down their facilities after three players and a pair of staff members tested positive for COVID-19. The NFL’s 49ers also had a player test positive in Nashville, Tenn. earlier today, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. A member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ coaching staff has also tested positive.
Taken together, it’s all a sobering reminder that the largest roadblock to return to regular-season play in any sport is not (and has not been) finances or length of season but the ongoing pandemic. Even if the players in question make full recoveries — which obviously is not a given — they still have families to consider, more at-risk members of the coaching and training staffs surrounding them, umpires, team personnel, etc. Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported this morning that positive infections have already spread to multiple members of the infected members of the Phillies organization. Similar instances of spreading are likely to occur — particularly with positive cases on the rise not only in Florida but also in Arizona, Texas and California, among other states.