Batter up: Yankees, Mets to hold spring training in NY

The Yankees will have spring training in New York instead of its usual location, pictured here, at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. Brendan Kuty/NJ Advance Media/TNS

Spring training for the Yankees and Mets will be held at home this year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Saturday, before encouraging the major league teams to play at least part of a season.

The two MLB baseball teams will hold their spring training at their respective fields — Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and Citi Field in Queens — after the league’s season was halted this spring by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The teams moved training from their usual locations in Florida — Port St. Lucie for the Mets and Tampa for the Yankees — as COVID-19 cases surge in the state, and 19 others across the nation and Puerto Rico.

“I can’t remember the last time we had spring training in New York,” Gov. Cuomo said Saturday during a telephone press call. “But this is really exciting news for us....One of the reasons they’re coming to New York is because the infection rate in New York is down low compared to other states...and that’s a credit to all New Yorkers.”

New York’s coronavirus transmission rate is 0.82, or every New Yorker with the virus infects 0.82 other people, or less than one other person, which indicates the pandemic is on the decline. A transmission rate of 1 or greater indicates an outbreak, state officials have said. Massachusetts has the nation’s lowest virus transmission rate at 0.71, and Hawaii the highest at 1.47, or an outbreak.

Gov. Cuomo’s announcement comes as team owners and the MLB Players Association have repeatedly failed to reach an agreement on playing a shortened 2020 baseball season. The players’ union released a statement Friday afternoon about its negotiations with Major League Baseball regarding playing games this season.

“The MLB has informed the association that it will not respond to our last proposal and will not play more than 60 games,” according to a statement from the union. “Our executive board will convene in the near future to determine next steps. Importantly, players remain committed to getting back to work as soon as possible.”

Gov. Cuomo is hopeful MLB teams will play a season, or at least part of a season, this year. The governor spoke with Yankees Chairman Hal Steinbrenner and President Randy Levine, and Mets owner Jeff Wilpon about having teams playing this year.

“They’re in conversations now and we’re expecting updates this week,” Gov. Cuomo said Saturday. “As to the decision on Major League Baseball, the discussions are between Major League Baseball and the players, but we’re hopeful that we’ll have baseball to enjoy this season.

“That is still in discussions...We hope the Players Association and Major League Baseball makes a quick agreement. We will be at the front of the line to welcome them and to start the games so we at least have something to watch on television and get that season going and spring training here.”

The state had 716 new positive virus cases Friday, or about 1 percent of the 68,830 conducted tests, bringing the statewide total to 387,272 cases. The state’s 10 regions reported 1.1 percent new cases and lower Friday, the governor said.

The state saw 24 virus-related fatalities Friday, bringing the total to 31,023, according to John Hopkins University’s online COVID-19 tracker.

The Mid-Hudson region is on track to enter Phase III on Tuesday of the state’s four-phase reopening plan for nonessential businesses. New York City will resume Phase II businesses Monday.

“We watch every day...we’re very aware of what’s going on around this nation and around the globe where we’re seeing spikes of the virus everywhere,” Gov. Cuomo said. “I want to thank all New Yorkers for what they did, making this state a state they could do their spring training in.

“So, remain diligent, feel good about what we’ve accomplished, but remember how we accomplished it and keep the discipline and the intelligence which is what brought us to this point.”

The Mets will host a soft opening this week for players who want to begin training. The teams will work with the state and follow state Department of Health guidelines.

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