Sports fans have been going through withdrawals ever since stay-at-home orders and social distancing restrictions due to COVID-19 were put into place right at the time of college basketball conference tournaments and just before March Madness was about to begin. Now comes the almost daily updates of canceled summer events. Will it be the "summer of 2020 that never was" or will sports come to the rescue?

Here comes sports, ready or not. UFC fights are back underway, and NASCAR has a race this Sunday, but I'm still "bummed out" that the Waterloo Bucks opening day has been postponed indefinitely. Riverfront Stadium is one of my favorite hang-outs during the summer. But, now comes the welcome news that Major League team owners approved a proposal for a July start to baseball. That's fantastic news right? Well, there's good and bad.

First of all, my friends and I are more than excited to get our fantasy baseball league rolling. That's good. On the other hand, a proposed 30-man roster with a "taxi squad" that would have upward of 50 players available. That's bad. It would involve a mixture of Major League players, and top minor league players, that could leave the minor league season in jeopardy. Potentially terrible news for our friends to the south, the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

There would be enough time left in the year for an  82-game season. Basically, half of the regular season. Which, considering the circumstances, that would work. A 162 game season is way too long anyway. I'm a huge football fan and I've always thought, even in a "normal" year, they should end the baseball season by Labor Day weekend, because by the time October rolls around, I'm totally in "football mode".

They also want to an expansion of playoff teams from 10 to 14. Yes, make this permanent and eliminate the god awful one game winner-take-all wild card games. You can not play 162 games and have one single game decide your fate.

If you're a purist and fan of the "senior circuit", you probably won't like the most controversial idea, the use of an universal designated hitter in both the American and National leagues. Before you flip out, it would be just for this year. I could agree with that, with a shortened training camp, no one wants to see pitchers get hurt. However, it would also leave some NL teams scrambling to find a capable DH.

Teams would play only in-division opponents and inter-league opponents in a similar area. For example, NL Central teams would stick to teams in their division and American League Central teams only. The idea is to limit travel with some teams possibly traveling by bus. Yikes, millionaire baseball players traveling by bus from city to city is really "old school" isn't it? I think this idea is kind of pointless. What's the difference between riding in a closely-confined area on a bus or in a stuffy airplane cabin? You could actually make a case, that players would spend less time riding on a plane than on a bus. Therefore, spending less time in close quarters with teammates.

Finally, as the "powers that be" work out the logistics of a "Training Camp 2.0" and billionaire owners figure out how to split the money with the millionaire players, I pose this question. Is baseball really baseball without the fans? It looks like they would, at the very least, start the season with fan-less stadiums. How surreal is that going to be?

For baseball fans like myself, there's nothing better than a beautiful summer evening, filled with blues skies and the sounds of the crack of the bat and crowd cheering. Mix in a lovely adult beverage and some friends and that's about as close to heaven on Earth as you're going to get. Let's hope we get back to that sooner than later.

ESPN

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