Eight people contracted COVID at Phillies’ camp, the first outbreak in MLB.

While Major League Baseball and the players are still figuring out how to split up their money to return to play, the COVID-19 pandemic has reared its ugly head. Eight members of the Philadelphia Phillies’ organization, five players and three staffers, have contracted the virus.

The players were all training at the club’s spring training facility in Clearwater, Florida. None of the individuals who tested positive are dealing with an unmanageable situation at the moment, but more personnel are awaiting their test results for the virus so there is a chance this outbreak could significantly worsen. The Phillies confirmed the news with the following statement.

The Phillies have not provided the names of any individuals who have tested positive, citing medical privacy statutes. There had been reports that the league was concerned about the coronavirus during its negotiations with the players while Dr. Anthony Fauci recently advised baseball to conclude its season (including the playoffs) by October to avoid a potential second wave of the virus.

While the money fight has dominated the headlines about a potential return to the field, this outbreak serves as a harrowing reminder that the virus itself will have a significant role in any return to play for the sport. MLB is not planning on putting itself into a bubble to play out the season like the NBA or NHL are doing to conclude the playoffs, so the risk of the virus derailing their campaign is significantly higher.

Even though initial hotspots like the Northeast and Chicago have improved, other areas of the country are seeing their case counts spike, including Florida, Arizona, Texas and California. Those states account for a third of MLB’s teams and all 30 of the league’s spring training sites.

Even if the two sides come to a financial agreement as soon as today, outbreaks like this could put the schedule in peril. No sport has really come up with a good solution for what would happen if one team has a rash of players test positive and something like that could torpedo the season.

MLB has been working with the players on various health and safety protocols to try and decrease the risk of virus spread, but seeing eight people in one organization test positive before we even go back to spring training is highly discouraging.

As much as fans don’t want to hear it, the coronavirus itself will play a massive role in the return of sports. An unchecked virus can wreak havoc on any team sport, putting even the best-laid plans in jeopardy of never getting off the ground.

Next: 5 MLB teams most screwed without a season

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