“The Nationals can’t just go into their stadium and start training,” a spokesperson for the office of D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said. “They have to get a waiver. They’ve submitted a request for a waiver, but it hasn’t been approved yet.”
The Nationals opened spring training at their regular facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., and left in mid-March when all such venues closed because of the coronavirus outbreak. The plan was to return to complete spring training, but the Nationals never did because of a surge of reported cases in Florida.
The team is required to apply for a waiver based on Bowser’s order that temporarily closed on-site operation of nonessential businesses in the nation’s capital to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Two other local sports entities in the District — Monumental Sports and Entertainment, and D.C. United — were approved for waivers to operate. The District entered Phase 2 of reopening June 22, allowing for, among other facilities, gyms and public pools to operate with certain restrictions.
The NBA’s Washington Wizards and WNBA’s Washington Mystics operate under the umbrella of Monumental Sports and practice at Entertainment and Sports Arena in Congress Heights. Both teams are scheduled to resume their seasons in July in separate “bubble” settings in Florida.
MLS’s D.C. United, which resumed regular training June 15, plays at Audi Field, located a half-mile from Nationals Park.
Approval for resumption of operations at Nationals Park, meanwhile, probably would mandate compliance to guidelines similar to those outlined for Monumental Sports and D.C. United, based on letters of approval each received from the mayor’s office and the District’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.
Those letters request contact information for each organization’s medical staff be provided and that any laboratory-confirmed positive tests for the coronavirus be reported immediately to D.C.’s Department of Health.
“One further condition of this waiver is that you consent to allow inspectors from the DC Department of Health and the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to inspect facilities and practices to verify your compliance,” read the letters signed by Christopher Rodriguez, director of the HSEMA.
Health concerns surrounding the pandemic already have compelled Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross to opt out of playing this season.
Zimmerman announced via social media he would be sitting out, with the safety of his three young children, including a newborn, and a high-risk parent taking priority over playing this season. The veteran added that he is not retiring, however, and plans to be back next season.
Zimmerman was set to make a prorated portion of his $2 million salary over the truncated 2020 season comprising 60 games over 66 days.
Ross, a candidate to be the Nationals’ fifth starter, also will be surrendering his salary before heading into what would have been his final year of arbitration in 2021.
Julie Zauzmer and Jesse Dougherty contributed to this report.
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