SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — With just over two weeks until baseball’s opening day, Texas Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos says he’s “a little bit” concerned about traveling to Seattle with Washington state having the worst coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday the state is preparing for potentially tens of thousands of cases, based on estimates of the spread of the disease. The Mariners are scheduled to open their season by hosting the Rangers on March 26. Major League Baseball said Monday that all opening weekend series were still set to run as planned.
“I know the season starts in Seattle, and we know how Seattle is right now,” Chirinos said Tuesday. “That’s 2½ weeks from now, so I think we’re going to hear some news when we’re getting close to opening day. Right now, it’s starting the season in Seattle and see what happens in 2½ weeks.”
Rangers president of baseball operations Jon Daniels said Monday that Texas, Seattle and MLB had not discussed opening day alternatives, which could include relocating the series to the Rangers’ new ballpark in Arlington. Daniels said the stadium would be ready to host the series, if necessary.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the WHO, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks. Those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 63,000 so far have recovered.
The NBA, NHL, MLS and MLB have yet to bar fans from stadiums in the U.S., but such measures have become common elsewhere. All upcoming professional soccer games in Spain, France and Portugal, as well as some in Germany and a European Championship qualifying match in Slovakia, will be played in empty stadiums because of the outbreak.
The Spanish league said Tuesday that matches in the first and second divisions will be played without fans for at least two weeks. The announcement came after the government outlined a series of preventative measures being implemented to help contain the spread of the virus, including ordering all sporting events with a significant number of fans — professional and non-professional — to be played in empty venues.
The league said it will “follow its recommendations and/or decisions, prioritizing the health of fans, players, club employees, journalists, etc., due to the COVID-19 health crisis.”
Portugal announced similar measures for the professional league and said youth soccer competitions would be suspended between Saturday and March 28. It also said non-professional soccer matches can’t be played with crowds bigger than 5,000 people.
Later Tuesday, the French soccer league announced that all soccer matches in its top two divisions will be played without fans until April 15.
The moves came a day after Italy said all sports events in the country, including Serie A soccer games and preparatory events for the Tokyo Olympics, would be suspended until April 3.
Champions League matches are also being affected, including next week’s game between Barcelona and Napoli in Spain and Bayern Munich’s match against Chelsea in Germany. Both games will be played without fans in attendance.
In Germany, the Bundesliga said six out of nine games this week will be played without fans, starting with Borussia Mönchengladbach against Cologne on Wednesday and including one of Germany’s biggest rivalries, Borussia Dortmund against Schalke on Saturday.
Union Berlin said its game against Bayern on Saturday would have fans after consulting with government officials in the German capital.
Dortmund will also play at Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Wednesday without fans under measures previously imposed by French authorities.
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp said closing stadiums to fans — a measure not yet taken by English soccer authorities — wouldn’t necessarily be the best solution.
“The problem with football games,” Klopp said, “is if you are not in the stadiums, then you go watch it closely together in rooms and I’m not sure which is better in this case, to be honest.”
Sports around the world have been affected by the virus, including an important tennis tournament scheduled for this week in California and many Olympic qualifying events.
The next Grand Slam tennis tournament is the French Open, which is due to start in Paris on May 24.
“The French Open is 11 weeks away,” the French tennis federation said Tuesday. “We are not hypothesizing that it will be canceled or postponed.”
The NBA told teams last week to prepare for the possibility of playing games in empty arenas, which Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James initially said he wanted no part of and would not play. He said Tuesday at shootaround, however, that he would do whatever the NBA tells teams to do.
“It’s funny because when I was asked the question (Friday) of, ‘Would you play without no fans?’, I had no idea it was actually a conversation going on behind closed doors about the particular virus,” he said. “Obviously I would be very disappointed not having the fans, because that’s what I play for. I play for my family, I play for my fans.
“They’re saying no one could actually come to the game if they decide to go to that point, so I would be disappointed in that, but at the same time you’ve got to listen to the people that’s keeping a track on what’s going on, and if they feel like it’s best for the safety of the players, the safety of the franchise, the safety of the league to mandate that, then we’ll all listen to it.”
In Greece, the owner of the Olympiakos and Nottingham Forest soccer clubs said he has the virus.
Greek shipowner and businessman Evangelos Marinakis said in a post on his verified Facebook page that “the recent virus has ‘visited’ me and I felt obliged to let the public know.” His post says he feels well and is following doctors’ instructions.
The German ice hockey league said Tuesday it was canceling the rest of the season, one day before the playoffs were due to begin, without crowning a winner.
March Madness has already been affected — the Ivy League on Tuesday canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, awarding NCAA Tournament berths to the regular-season champions, the Princeton women and Yale men.
In MotoGP, the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, Texas, was postponed until November.
Bobby Epstein, chairman of the Circuit of the Americas, said the decision was made by MotoGP because of global concerns over travel, most notably in Italy, and not one made by local officials.
“The risk of shipping everything here, having fans coming here, and then not having an event,” Epstein said, “that was too big a risk to take.”
With Italy-based athletes facing restrictions on their travel, the country’s men’s ski team said it would not send competitors to Slovenia for the last World Cup races of the season this weekend. Slovenia plans health checks on its borders with Italy.
AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni in Madrid contributed to this report.