• AFP-Jiji


Los Angeles Angels pitcher Andrew Heaney said Tuesday he'd be willing to open the Major League Baseball season playing in empty ballparks — something the MLB players' union has discussed.

Heaney, who is the Angels' union representative, said on a conference call with reporters that playing without fans in attendance in a bid to get the season underway was a possible option under consideration, even though "no player wants to play in an empty stadium."

Major League Baseball's 2020 season had been set to start on March 26, but it's on indefinite hold along with the rest of the sports world amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Heaney said televised games might be a relief even if continued bans on large gatherings mean fans can't get to the ballpark.

"Baseball shows why it's the national pastime in situations like this, difficult times for our country," Heaney said from his home in Oklahoma. "It seems to me that's when the sport flexes its muscles.

"As players, we understand that too. Maybe (the word) therapeutic is overboard, but it can be helpful for people in tough times, tough situations, to flip on a game and see their team play."

Currently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended no gatherings of 50 or more people through mid-May, but Heaney said he's still trying to prepare himself for a full 162-game season.

"That's everybody's goal," he said. "It may seem far-fetched, but that's everybody's goal."

But he wouldn't reject the idea of changes to the playoff format later in the year.

"It's definitely not a normal season, so I can see the benefit of having an abnormal playoff system that would be exciting and intriguing," he said.

"I think there's a movement within baseball to start being a little bit more outside-the-box and not quite so traditional. It's a very slow movement, but I think it's getting there."

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