MLB’s temporary clubhouse ban: How it changes the reporting landscape

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 16: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred looks on during the T-Mobile Home Run Derby at Nationals Park on July 16, 2018 in Washington, DC.

A temporary clubhouse ban due to the coronavirus outbreak will 100% change the art of reporting as we all know it.

“The health and safety of everyone in our communities is of the utmost importance to us.”

The aforementioned sentence is part of a statement Major League Baseball issued on Monday. All of this pertains to a temporary media ban from locker rooms in response to the increasing number of coronavirus cases.

And with the increasing exposure of cases around the world, there is no issue with the protocol. The NBA, NHL, and MLS have also issued the same type of plan.

The issue here, and from a personal perspective, is how the job will change. Because that access to players in the locker room or clubhouse, as referred to, is a significant part of reporting. Simply speaking, there will be a definite difference.

Again, no complaints. Safety and well-being are priorities here. And in due time, this will pass and things will go back to normal. You can’t quarantine the players and this certainly is how conditions will play out for the time being.

As of this week, the NCAA has not issued a protocol. No need to do that, as various conference tournaments begin this week to determine the seeding for the upcoming NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  The NCAA limits access to locker rooms and personal one-on-one contact with student-athletes.

So nothing will change with the Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament, which begins Wednesday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Coaches and student-athletes will be present for post-game interviews on a podium in the press conference room.

NYCFC begins its home portion of the MLS season at Yankee Stadium on Saturday. Locker rooms will be closed. Coaches and players will participate in post-game interviews.

One-on-one contact with players are important for how we do the job. And for the MLS — especially in a New York market — exposure and getting up close to the players is a marketing tool to enhance the league.

We knew this was coming when the NHL allowed teams to make the call. The New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and New Jersey Devils all imposed their media ban last week.

And unless things change for the better (which certainly does not seem to be the case), all MLB locker rooms will be closed to the media and open to restricted personnel come Opening Day (March 26).

Again, precaution is first. It was the right call.

Nonetheless, the job will change. That means getting a pre or post-game quote and obtaining the appropriate content for readers will not be from that one-on-one contact.

Instead, players and managers will be situated at a podium in conference rooms.  It will be a transition. In other words, quotes you read could be similar coming from that podium.

Part of this venture over the years — again, from a personal perspective — is gaining access to the locker rooms. Players get to know a familiar face. They are willing to say something different and provide what you need for that deadline story.

And with baseball, more so than the other sports, talking to players up and close is different. They will talk, though sometimes they will take their time doing other things like eat a post-game meal or take a shower.

Major League Baseball has always been cautious. But this is unprecedented, as compared to a player that’s separated from the media due to the common virus or flu.

“We appreciate the media’s cooperation with this temporary step, which is being taken out of an abundance of caution for the best interests of all,” the statement from MLB.

In the end, the job will be different. Reporting will change and the quotes won’t be the same.

From a media perspective, all of this could have an impact. If events are canceled, that speaks for itself. The main thing here is to be cautious.

As they say, wash your hands and avoid touching your face. And, as every crisis has shown, this will pass.

Sports have always been a diversion from the daily grind and bad news. We will report and write and go about business.

But it will be different.

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter: @Ring786  Facebook.com/RichMancuso

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