Hold the spit? What MLB games could look like in 2020 under safety measures

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Major League Baseball players are creatures of habit. But if they want to play in 2020, they may have to learn some new ones.

ESPN's Jeff Passan shared insight Saturday into MLB's updated health and safety manual, which includes a host of new guidelines that players and personnel would have to follow to safely resume play in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are the most notable guidelines, which would combine to give games a very different look and feel beyond the eerie absence of fans in stadiums:

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- High-fives, fist bumps and hugs would be prohibited, as would be tobacco use, sunflower seed use and spitting. (Good thing David Ortiz is retired.)

- Team personnel and players not in the game would sit in the stands at least six feet apart, rather than in the dugout.

- Players would be required to wear masks everywhere except for on the field during games and during "strenuous activities." They'd also be discouraged from showering at the stadium and taking ride-shares or taxis to or from the ballpark.

- Pitchers would use their own set of balls to throw bullpen sessions.

In addition to those in-game changes, MLB also would split personnel into "tiers" -- Tier 1 for players, on-field personnel (i.e. umpires) and medical personnel; Tier 2 for other "essential personnel" and Tier 3 for groundskeepers and cleaning crews -- and test Tiers 1 and 2 for coronavirus "multiple times a week, " per Passan.

That's all part of MLB's ambitious plan to begin its 2020 season by July 4 and start spring training by mid-June. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said recently he'd allow Fenway Park to host Red Sox games this summer under certain protocols, so it appears there's a possibility of professional baseball in Boston this year.

There still are plenty of unknowns, though -- Massachusetts has over 83,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, among the highest in the country -- and some officials expressed "skepticism" to Passan that the league could pull off a July 4 return.

But if baseball does return this summer, expect to see a much different product than you saw last year.

Hold the spit? What MLB games could look like in 2020 under safety measures originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston