Coronavirus shakes Arizona sports community with more postponements, cancellations

PHOENIX – The ever-changing sports world due to the coronavirus pandemic was epitomized Thursday as Diamondbacks pitcher Archie Bradley reflected on the uncertainty of his sport.

“I feel like we’re all kind of in a holding period,” he said at the team’s spring training site at Salt River Fields.

Sure enough, a few hours later, Major League Baseball pulled the plug, announcing that spring training will be suspended as of 4 p.m. Friday and the start of the regular season will be delayed by at least two weeks.

That wasn’t the only news impacting Arizona sports teams and fans. The NHL soon announced its season would be suspended, while the Indoor Football League said it would put on hold its season after Saturday games. In addition, the Ladies Professional Golf Association announced the postponement of its upcoming events, including the Volvik Founder Cups in Phoenix, which was scheduled for March 19-22.

“First and foremost, our whole team is concerned with the safety and well-being of our employees, players, fans and this entire Arizona community,” Ahron Cohen, Arizona Coyotes president and CEO, said in a conference call. “First step is addressing what’s right in front of our face. We have our entire staff working through a lot of issues.”

Before MLB’s announcement, the Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants and other clubs were looking for other venues to play their early regular season games. Washington state and California have banned gatherings larger than 250 people.

“To not allow fans. To cancel a season, you feel as an athlete we’re going to be the next sport,” Bradley said. “Whether it’s proactive or to take precaution, it’s kind of the same.”

Diamondbacks pitcher Archie Bradley understands the uncertainty surrounding baseball because of the coronavirus, but says, “At the end of the day, we would like to play if we’re allowed to play.” (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Other leagues and sports organizations had already taken steps to limit the spread of the coronavirus, with the NBA and two soccer leagues, the MLS and USL, suspending their seasons.

The NBA suspension came after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus before Wednesday night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Jazz star Donovan Mitchell also tested positive for the virus Thursday. Multiple NBA teams have begun to self-quarantine in response.

College basketball also was severely affected, with most major conference tournaments, including the Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12 being canceled.

Both the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments will be canceled in a statement released by the NCAA.

ASU Athletics released a statement canceling all sporting competitions. in accordance with a Pac-12 announcement Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, the NFL is on schedule to start its new league year on Wednesday despite multiple teams restricting travel and closing facilities.

“I think just like everyone else, we don’t really know the severity of this,” Bradley said. “We don’t know if this is just a flulike thing or if it will continue to affect more than just sports in general, the whole world. That’s everyone’s concern, we’re all looking at it even from a non-sports standpoint, just humans in general, human life. What’s going to happen to this country and the whole world.”

There are 127,863 confirmed cases across the world, with 1,323 in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.

“To just do what’s best for the league, players, the fans and the game,” Bradley said. “I think that’s always what we want. What’s best for everyone.”

The cancelation of about 80 remaining Cactus League games will have a major impact on vendors, fans and the local economy. With the abrupt ending to spring training, many fans will be packing up and heading home early.

In 2018, the Cactus League generated an economic impact of $644 million.

“The safety of the public is the No. 1 concern of each of our ballparks,” Bridget Binsbacher, Cactus League executive director, said in a statement. “Following MLB’s decision to cancel the remaining spring training schedule in response to the coronavirus pandemic, we will support our facilities in their efforts to ensure safety of the fans, teams, employees and media. We understand that many fans look forward to Cactus League games and we sympathize with those whose plans were impacted.”

Bradley reflected on how all this will affect the game environment.

“It would change the atmosphere a lot,” he said. “At the end of the day, we would like to play if we’re allowed to play. The fans are what make this great game and support us, but we want to play the game and I think it would just be an adjustment. It’ll take some time getting used to, but we’d rather play if we can.”

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