The League wants its players where it can see them.
Over the course of the pandemic, different sports have cooked up different ways of preventing and handling viral outbreaks. Some have worked fairly well, such as the NBA’s infamous “bubble.” Other leagues haven’t been so lucky, as Major League Baseball has experienced at least 45 game postponements in the past year as a direct result of COVID-19. As the new year begins and spring training is right around the corner, the league isn’t willing to chance such consistent setbacks again, even if they have to get a smidge Orwellian in the process.
Once spring training begins on February 17, all MLB players, as well as on-field staff and non-player personnel who need to be in contact with the players, will be required to wear electronic tracking devices to ensure they don’t wander off into viral hot zones. “Every covered Individual must wear a Kinexon contact tracing device at all times while in club facilities and during club directed travel and while engaged in team activities, including group workouts and practices,” the recently-updated MLB health manual says. “Repeated failure to wear the devices or repeated failure to return the devices to the Kinexon device docking station may be a basis for discipline.”
Under MLB's upgraded health protocols, players must wear electronic tracing wristbands from the start of spring training and will face discipline for violations https://t.co/wQ936b5mqW
— SI MLB (@si_mlb) February 10, 2021
These updates were agreed upon over the weekend by both the league and the players’ union. Failure to comply with these new regulations will be subject to disciplinary measures “including but not limited to suspension or forfeiture of salary for days spent away from the club while in mandatory self-isolation or quarantine resulting from the violation.”
In regards to COVID-19 vaccinations, the updated manual includes a statement that says “Vaccination for COVID-19 will be voluntary for all players. However, MLB and the MLBPA will strongly encourage players to undergo vaccination at the appropriate time.”