Publish date:

Coronavirus affects autograph seekers at MLB games

Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani gives autographs at a spring training game before the coronavirus put a halt to close contact with fans. Photo: Masterpress/Getty Images

Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani gives autographs at a spring training game before the coronavirus put a halt to close contact with fans. Photo: Masterpress/Getty Images

UPDATE: Since the MLB sent its directive to teams, as noted below, word emerged that the league canceled the remaining spring training games and delayed the opening of the season by at least two weeks. The NBA and NHL suspended their seasons, as did Major League Soccer. The NCAA canceled all of its Division I basketball conference tournaments and also March Madness. 

As a precautionary measure against the coronavirus, Major League Baseball teams are limiting the contact between players and fans by dialing back autographs.

As a goodwill gesture and so as not to disappoint the kids, teams are having players sign baseballs in the clubhouse so they can toss them to the fans in the stands, this according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

In a memo distributed to MLB teams, league officials urge “players to avoid taking balls and pens directly from fans to sign autographs…and opt against handshakes.”

“It’s certainly something everybody’s following, and, and trying to come up with best practices and be educated and not be over-reactive, but certainly not be under-reactive at the same time,” New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman told WFAN. “And so it’s, it’s something that’s new, that is on the list of many things that wasn’t something we were dealing with prior.

“We just want to apply best practices, what they are and they’re not easy, you know... Somebody extends their hand and you’re kind of told like, listen, it’s just best not to shake your hand.”

Dustin Morse, the Minnesota Twins communications director, told FOX9 the Twins are among those pre-signing baseballs in the clubhouse.

“We are encouraging our players to still have positive interactions with our fan base,” Morse told FOX9.

But from a distance.