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    Atlanta’s sports teams have annually come together for #404Day, a celebration of the city using its area code as a rallying point. But this year they are uniting even more to offer encouragement to fans during the coronavirus outbreak. Players from the Braves, Falcons, Hawks, Atlanta United and Dream are featured in a new video. They share the message of taking care of each other in the community, even if it means being apart for awhile. The players featured are Freddie Freeman of the Braves, Grady Jarrett of the Falcons, John Collins of the Hawks, Josef Martinez of Atlanta United and Tiffany Hayes of the Dream. In part of the video, the players say: “On this #404Day, we want to bring Atlanta together for a bigger purpose. Let’s take care of each other. Let’s have each other’s back. Let’s be a team. You be my teammate, I’ll be yours. “We’re facing a serious threat. But this city has conquered bigger challenges before. Better days are ahead. Let’s do what it takes. To be together again soon. Even if that means staying apart for now. Let’s do it. For Atlanta.” Martinez even took part while standing on crutches. He is recovering from knee surgery. The Braves would have played their home opener Friday night but their season has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. The Hawks and Atlanta United have had their seasons suspended while the Dream’s season has also been delayed.
  • About 370 players who were at big league spring training with minor league contracts will get advance payments of up to $50,000 each from the Major League Baseball Players Association. The money approved Friday by the union’s executive board will be in addition to $400 weekly allowances being paid to all minor leaguers through May 31 by the Major League Baseball. Among the players eligible for payments from Friday’s allocation are Félix Hernández, Matt Kemp, Pablo Sandoval, Neil Walker, Derek Holland, Jerry Blevins, Edwin Jackson, Chris Iannetta, Brandon Morrow, Jonathan Lucroy and Trevor Cahill. Players can receive $5,000 if they have at least one day or major league service. The amount increases to $7,500 for one year of service, $15,000 for two, $25,000 for three and $50,000 for six. Any player may opt out of the money, which is being advanced against salaries. Players are eligible if they were at spring training on March 13, the day after play stopped. Veteran big leaguers who go to spring training with minor league deals usually are trying to earn big league roster spots, agreements that leave teams with little financial exposure. Most players find out during the final week of spring training whether they will be added to a 40-man roster. Players on 40-man rosters, 60-man injured lists and on outright assignments to the minor leagues with big league deals are covered by the March 26 agreement between MLB and the union. They each will receive $286,500, $60,000, $30,000 or $15,000, depending on their contract. That money comes from a $170 million advance fund paid by MLB over what was to have been the season's first 60 days. If games are played this year, that money would be offset against salaries. If the season is scrapped, players would keep the advances. ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Friday will hit even harder than Thursday of last week. The Braves were scheduled to play their first game at the newly named Truist Park on Friday. They would be coming off their opening road trip, a seven-game swing in Phoenix and San Diego that would have begun on that Thursday. They would’ve left California after the 12:40 p.m. (Pacific time) Wednesday series finale, arriving in Atlanta with a Thursday off day to ready themselves for the home opener.  “It’s going to be weird,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I was thinking (Wednesday) night how nice this would’ve been to have gotten home (Thursday) and be with the family. And what a nice, beautiful day it is heading into a really cool weekend. It would’ve been neat. I probably would’ve went to the ballpark today at some point just to get moved in a little bit for a couple hours before getting ready for opening day.” Atlanta was sunny in the mid-60s on Thursday. Friday would be another lovely day for baseball, sporting a mid-to-low 70s temperature and clear skies. Perfect for Georgia’s favorite professional sports franchise to launch its most promising season in years. Instead, Friday we’ll be under the governor’s shelter-in-place decree. The coronavirus pandemic has swept the world, creating issues far beyond the cancellation of sports. The United States is trying to stop the spread, a task that – best case – won’t be completed for months, according to numerous health professionals.  >> Photos: Truist Park without baseball Snitker, like almost everyone else, is sidelined at home during this uncertain time. He’s kept busy with small projects around the house. He’s done yard work. He still enjoys his routine walks around the neighborhood. He and his wife, Ronnie, moved into their home just over three years ago and have taken this time to unearth some stashed boxes. He and his son, Troy, who’s a hitting coach with the Astros and staying with the family in Atlanta, have gone fishing a couple of times. But that void – baseball, which was set to begin March 26 – can’t be filled. And those digital calendar updates some of you receive regarding Braves game times? Snitker is aware. “Every night, it seems like my wife gets a little blurb on her computer, ‘Oh, man. You guys are playing in 15 minutes,’” he said. “It’s been different. It’s different for everybody. I’ve been telling people, you walk the neighborhood and run into neighbors, it’s as weird for them as it is for us. Teachers, their systems are on go, and they don’t have any kids. People who are in companies that are laying people off. We’re just a small, small piece of the whole thing.” Snitker stressed sports are among the smallest concerns in this ever-changing crisis. Still, there’s no getting around how strange it is for a baseball lifer to be sitting idle in early April. Snitker has been in the Braves organization for over 40 years. Baseball has been at the epicenter of his life, as a child and an adult. He sympathized with players, knowing many of them are directionless without their greatest passion. He recalled the disappointed vibe in the room when he met with his team for the final time before they departed Florida.  “I don’t want to make it bigger than what it is because there’s a lot of people who are feeling bad,” Snitker said. “But you had a bunch of guys, it was almost like they were running into each other ’cause they didn’t know what to do. I felt bad because they’re sitting there looking at each other like, ‘God, what do we do now?’ Some of the minor league guys, if they lived across the country, a couple of them had their families and had to drive back. They need to work, they need to get paid. Even some of the single guys, I mean, they play baseball. That’s what they do. They’re like lost souls. I felt bad for them cause all they want to do is play baseball. This time of year, when the systems are on go, that’s a hard adjustment to make. I feel bad for the guys, everybody. “You have to deal with it. It can’t get you because if you let it get you, it will. We’re in it for the long haul pretty much.” The Braves played their last game March 12, in Lakeland. MLB suspended operations that afternoon. The team initially planned to remain in Florida for workouts but would take the weekend off while the spring training facilities underwent a deep cleaning. After conversations with the Players Association, players were granted the freedom to return home. The idea of any group workouts was vanquished. Snitker last addressed his team on that Saturday morning. Players began clearing out. Snitker and Ronnie left on the ensuing Tuesday. “I get home (from Florida) and reality sets in my neighborhood,” he said. “I feel bad for everybody around here who has business and are having to lay people off. Or maybe they’re one of the people who’ve gotten laid off. I talked to a buddy of mine (Wednesday) from Louisiana, and his company has had to lay off a number of people because in an oil industry, the prices are what they are and they can’t take on jobs. It’s tough, man. Our situation is bad, but there’s a lot of people doing a lot worse than we are.” Snitker touched base with his players Wednesday via text. He heard back from everyone, saying each player is doing well and trying to stay in shape. Some have even ordered home gyms. Snitker added he thinks the fathers are gaining further appreciation for their wives and for teachers. The Braves’ training staff has stayed in constant communication with each player. Pitching coach Rick Kranitz and bullpen coach Marty Reed have developed a throwing program for the pitchers, so when they throw, they’re texting with that pair. Kranitz and Reed wanted to provide guidelines and track the pitchers’ work. With players and coaches separated, each sheltered at the place they deem home, that’s the most structure fathomable. “They’re dealing with it,” Snitker said. “They have to. They’re wired to deal with situations like this. None of them like it, but it’s what we’re doing right now. It was good to hear from everybody. There’s really nothing (I can say) other than be safe, take care of your family. But it’s good to reach out, and it was cool to hear from everybody and what they’re doing.” Snitker won’t speculate if or when the season could return or how baseball would formulate its unconventional schedule. He said he hasn’t allowed himself to think about it. “My thing is when they tell us to speed this thing back up, we will,” he said. “It doesn’t do me any good to speculate, what ifs. I don’t know the nuts and bolts of all that kind of stuff. Everybody is just waiting. People have asked me all these different questions. “There’s a lot of people working on this every day. I know they’re agonizing over what ifs, whens and all that stuff. I just think whenever we get the go-ahead to play, that everyone will be really excited and ready to get back after it.” Whenever that day comes, it can act as a healer for the nation. Live sports’ return would signal a recovering country, that hopefully the worst is behind us. Baseball last acted as a post-tragedy unifier in 2001, when 10 days after 9/11, the Braves and Mets came together to play the first game in New York City. There’s no end in sight for the current pandemic. But Snitker, along with the rest of the sports universe, longs to hear the next on-field national anthem because of what it would represent. “I thought this would be a great thing for our country if we can play baseball again,” he said. “That’s the underlying theme. When I’m walking the neighborhood, (people tell me) they miss it, too. I told somebody, ‘I don’t know that we’re going to be (complaining) about 4-1/2 hour Red Sox-Yankees games anymore.’ We might appreciate what we have a lot more and not take so many things for granted.  “We’re seeing how fragile life – I’ve always preached that you’re never guaranteed tomorrow in anything. That’s why you live for today. Some of the things we took for granted, we won’t be taking for granted after going through this. “I watched ‘Field of Dreams’ the other day, and you listen to what’s going on in that, it kind of hits home. I watched that movie a little differently. Baseball is good for our country. Hopefully, when and if we get playing again, people will have a sense that things are getting better and righting themselves. It’ll be good for all concerns if we can get back playing.” In the meantime, everyone will try to make the best of a poor situation. Snitker has enjoyed watching old games. He reminisced about the 23-22 Phillies-Cubs shootout in 1979. He watched the legendary 16-inning affair between the Astros and Mets in the 1986 National League Championship Series. Snitker gets a kick out of the little things from those days: the play styles, the uniforms, the bullpens. He laughed at broadcaster Jack Brickhouse’s comment about how hard a pitcher was throwing because there were no radar guns to track velocity. The Braves will be streaming interviews at 5:30 p.m. Friday, part of their efforts to connect with fans on what would’ve been the beginning of their home slate. It will feature interviews with general manager Alex Anthopolous, first baseman Freddie Freeman and Snitker. But it won’t be opening day at the yard. The Braves won’t be hosting the Marlins. The Battery Atlanta, which would’ve been so full of life, won’t even see a tumbleweed. Truist Park will remain what it will be indefinitely: empty. “Opening days are really cool,” Snitker said. “They’re special. It’s going to be different knowing we should’ve been out there playing. It’s going to hit home more Friday than it even did last Thursday.”
  • The Latest on the effects of the new coronavirus outbreak on sports around the world: Major League Soccer has extended its training moratorium through April 24 because of the coronavirus outbreak. Team facilities are closed to players and staff — except for players requiring treatment that cannot be administered at their homes. Players are expected to remain in market with their teams during the moratorium to avoid the spread of the virus. The league will consider individual requests for players to travel to another city by car. MLS teams were two games into the season when it was suspended on March 12. A Philadelphia Union player with mild symptoms recently tested positive for the virus. ___ Golden Gate Fields in the San Francisco Bay area has been closed for live racing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The Alameda County Public Health Officer ordered the track to close, which resulted in the cancellation of Thursday’s card. Golden Gate says it “is abiding by the instructions issued two weeks ago by the California Horse Racing Board to operate under the sanction of the local health authorities.” The track says there are no known cases of COVID-19 at Golden Gate. Santa Anita near Los Angeles has been without live racing since March 27 under a similar order from the Los Angeles County Health Department. Both tracks had been racing without fans and limiting attendance to horsemen and necessary racing and track employees. Both are owned by The Stronach Group. Horsemen representatives and The Stronach Group have maintained that racetracks are essential businesses in need of continued operations, providing care to animals, and that afternoon racing involves far fewer participants than morning training, which is allowed. Over 1,200 horses are stabled at Golden Gate, with 400 workers living on site to care for the animals. ___ NASCAR has delayed the debut of its next generation stock car that was scheduled to hit the track next season. The car will now be delayed until 2022 because the coronavirus pandemic has slowed development. The Next Gen project has been years in the works as an industry-wide collaboration to cut costs and improve competition. ___ The California State Athletic Commission has canceled all combat sports events through May due to the coronavirus pandemic. Several dozen events were scheduled for May, mostly in Southern California. The affected events include a UFC show scheduled for May 16 in San Diego. The event was scheduled to feature lightweights Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker in the main event. The Bellator mixed martial arts promotion had already postponed its two events scheduled for California in May. Golden Boy Promotions also had already canceled a boxing show scheduled for April 25 outside Palm Springs, headlined by light heavyweights Sergey Kovalev and Sullivan Barrera. ___ Anaheim Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli say they will pay their 2,100 part-time employees across all of their sports and event management companies through June 30 for work that was wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic. The Samuelis’ Anaheim Arena Management company operates Honda Center, the Ducks’ home rink. They also own two large ice hockey complexes in Orange County — including Great Park Ice, the massive new winter sports facility that houses the Ducks’ training complex in Irvine, California. The Samuelis own the Ducks’ AHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls. Their company even operates JT Schmid’s, a popular restaurant and bar just across Katella Avenue from Honda Center. Henry Samueli is a former UCLA professor who became a billionaire after co-founding Broadcom, a semiconductor company, with one of his students. The Samuelis purchased the Ducks from the Walt Disney Company in 2005, two years after creating Anaheim Arena Management to oversee Honda Center’s operations. ___ The Ottawa Senators are making temporary layoffs and salary reductions because of COVID-19. The team’s parent company says the full-time workforce will be reduced starting Sunday, when the NHL club’s season was originally scheduled to end. Those not laid off could be placed on furlough. Others could have their salaries reduced. Health benefits will continue uninterrupted. “We will pull through by staying committed together,” owner Eugene Melnyk said. “I look forward to the day when it is safe to reopen our doors and welcome back employees, fans and community partners.' ___ Former baseball All-Star Jim Edmonds says he tested positive for the new coronavirus and for pneumonia. “I am completely symptom free now and doing really well, and so I must have had it for a while,” Edmonds said in a video posted to his Instagram account. “I appreciate everyone who has said well wishes and wished me the best.” The 49-year-old played 17 major league seasons from 1993-2010, mostly for the California and Los Angeles Angels (1993-99) and St. Louis Cardinals (2000-07). He hit 393 home runs. ___ Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry has donated $15,000 to provide hygiene products to students and families in the East Cleveland City School District during the coronavirus pandemic. Landry partnered with Meijer to supply families with soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste and other personal care products. “Although we are facing unprecedented challenges right now, it is important to remember that we are all in this together,” Landry said. “I love the City of Cleveland, and I want to make sure our communities have the support that they need to stay safe and healthy.” The partnership estimates more than 1,300 families will receive supplies to support their health and wellness while schools are closed until at least May 1. Landry has been active in the Cleveland community since joining the Browns in 2018 after four seasons in Miami. ___ The Atlanta Braves are marking what would have been opening day at Truist Park with a virtual “At Home” opener. The team will host a 90-minute, online celebration Friday that features interviews with manager Brian Snitker, general manager Alex Anthopoulos and star first baseman Freddie Freeman as well as messages from other Braves players. Operatic tenor Timothy Miller will perform the national anthem, joined by popular between-innings features such as Beat The Freeze and the Home Depot Tool Race. The “At Home” opener will serve as a lead-in to Fox Sports South airing a replay of the Braves′ 2019 home opener against the Chicago Cubs. Like sports around the world, Major League Baseball is on hold during the coronavirus pandemic. The Braves are two-time defending National League East champions. ___ Get ready for a full week of the Masters on television. With this year's tournament postponed because of the new coronavirus, ESPN and CBS Sports will broadcast the final rounds of some of the more significant Masters. ESPN starts it off at 3 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday with the final round from 1986. That's arguably the most popular Masters of all, when Jack Nicklaus shot 30 on the back nine to win his sixth green jacket at age 46. ESPN will show the the 2012 Masters, when Bubba Watson won his first green jacket, at 2 p.m. Thursday. That's followed by Tiger Woods' record 12-shot victory in 1997 at 7:30 p.m. On Friday, ESPN features 2013, when Adam Scott won, at noon and 2005, with Woods and his memorable chip-in on the 16th, at 6 p.m. CBS takes over on the weekend, starting with a one-hour production of 1975, when Nicklaus won over Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller. That begins at 1:30 p.m. Saturday and is immediately followed by 2004, which was Phil Mickelson's duel with Ernie Els. On Sunday starting at 12:30 p.m., CBS will show the entire round from last year, when Woods completed his comeback from back surgeries to win his fifth green jacket. Masters.com and @TheMasters social media will complement the broadcasts with content never before seen from famous final rounds. ___ The Russian Sports Ministry says a major training base near Moscow has shut down after a coach and an athlete tested “provisionally positive” for the new coronavirus. The ministry says the athlete was hospitalized and the coach self-isolated at home. All training is shut down at the sprawling Novogorsk base, a key focus of Russian Olympic preparations across multiple sports, and it has been disinfected. Athletes have either been isolated or sent home to self-isolate. The ministry didn’t name the coach or athlete. However, the coach was identified as artistic gymnastics head coach Andrei Rodionenko in comments to state news agency Tass by Russian Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation president Irina Viner-Usmanova. Separately, a Russian boxing coach who was at last month’s Olympic qualifying tournament in London said he tested positive. The Russian Boxing Federation said Anton Kadushin had been at home since returning from the competition. Previously the Turkish federation said one of its boxers and one of its coaches had tested positive after the tournament, which was cut short due to the virus outbreak. The International Olympic Committee said at the time it was “not possible to know the source of infection.” ___ The CEO of World TeamTennis says the league has sent $1,000 each to about 60 players and coaches as a 'gift' to help them deal with the financial hardships presented by the coronavirus pandemic. Carlos Silva said in a telephone interview Thursday that the payments were not an advance of salary for the nine-team league, which was founded by Billie Jean King in the 1970s. Explained Silva: 'It wasn't so much about the money, but a way to say, 'Thank you,' and just so they could use it for some rent or some groceries or anything they might need.' All professional tennis events have been postponed or canceled until early July because of the COVID-19 outbreak. There will be some tennis to watch on TV this weekend, though: A WTT all-star event featuring 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Madison Keys and other players will air Saturday on CBS. It was filmed March 1. Silva said WTT is still planning to launch its three-week season on July 12, but will continue to monitor the situation and offer periodic updates. Matches are slated to be held that day in Washington, Orlando, San Diego and Springfield, Missouri. That date also was supposed to be when the men's final was played at Wimbledon. But the All England Club announced Wednesday that its Grand Slam tournament would not be played this year. ___ The New England Patriots' private team plane is returning to Boston from China carrying more than 1 million masks critical to health care providers fighting to control the spread of the new coronavirus. The Wall Street Journal reports that Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker secured the N95 masks but had no way of getting them to the U.S. Team owner Robert Kraft stepped in and offered to help. The plane, a Boeing 767 painted in the team’s colors and logo, is usually used to carry the team to and from NFL games. It is expected back in Boston on Thursday. ___ The World Games that were more than a year away have been delayed to 2022 because of the coronavirus outbreak. The Olympic-style event for sports that are not on the Summer Games program had been scheduled for July 15-25, 2021, in Birmingham, Alabama. But those dates now overlap with the Tokyo Olympics, which were delayed for a full year while the world deals with the pandemic. The International World Games Association and Birmingham Organizing Committee announced Thursday that the 11th edition of the World Games will now be held on July 7-17, 2022. The World Games began in 1981 and are held every four years to showcase disciplines that are not on the Olympic program, such as sumo, floorball, billiards, lifesaving, orienteering, dance sport and tug of war. Birmingham won the right to stage the 2021 competition, beating out Lima, Peru, and Ufa, Russia, to become the first U.S. host since Santa Clara, California, for the inaugural World Games. Birmingham had expected some 3,600 athletes from more than 100 nations to participate. ___ Iowa State coaches and other athletic department staff members are getting pay cuts for one year to help offset lost revenue from the coronavirus pandemic. Athletic director Jaime Pollard wrote on the Cyclones' website that his department faces a $5 million shortfall this year because of the cancellation of the NCAA and Big 12 men's basketball tournaments. The payroll cut will save more than $3 million. There also will be a temporary suspension of bonuses for coaches totaling another $1 million. Previously announced increases in Cyclone Club annual giving levels have been delayed, prices for season and individual game ticket prices have been frozen for all sports and the deadline for booster club donations and football season ticket renewals has been extended to May 29. ___ The Belgian soccer league has become the first major European competition to recommend ending its season with the current standings declared final because of the coronavirus outbreak. The league says Club Brugge would be awarded the title if the advice is confirmed at a general assembly meeting on April 15. Brugge would also qualify for next season's Champions League. Brugge is currently 15 points ahead of second-place Gent with one game to go before the season-ending playoffs. The league management board has agreed it is unclear when team training could resume and says it is “very unlikely” any games with fans attending could be played before June 30. The league says even games in empty stadiums would put stress on public health and security services dealing with the pandemic. It agreed the risk of infecting players would also damage the competition’s integrity. ___ The Senior PGA Championship in Michigan has been canceled. The PGA of America says it based its decision on Michigan’s stay-at-home order that was enacted March 23. The Senior PGA in Benton Harbor, Michigan, was to be played May 21-24. It will be held next year at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It will return to Benton Harbor the following year. ___ World Athletics says it won’t clear any Russian athletes to compete internationally amid the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The governing body of track requires Russians to apply for “authorized neutral athlete” status each year to compete outside their home country. Russia has been suspended from World Athletics since 2015 for widespread doping. World Athletics spokeswoman Nicole Jeffery says in e-mailed comments that “the ANA system only applies to international competition, so until there is competition there is no need for any athlete to apply.” She adds that “for the next two months, at least, there is no competition, so the system does not need to be active until we know when the competition schedule can resume.” World Athletics hasn’t decided how far in advance to open applications once competitions resume. High jump world champion Mariya Lasitskene and pole vault world champion Anzhelika Sidorova are among those who need their status renewed from last year. ___ British Open organizers say postponement is an option for this year's tournament at Royal St. George’s because of the coronavirus outbreak. The R&A released a short statement in response to media speculation about the staging of the event in July. Chief executive Martin Slumbers says the “process is taking some time to resolve” because of a range of external factors. Slumbers says “we are well aware of the importance of being able to give clear guidance to fans, players and everyone involved and are working to resolve this as soon as we can.” The 149th edition of the Open Championship is scheduled to take place July 16-19. The last time the Open wasn't played was in 1945 because of World War II. ___ The French Grand Prix scheduled for May 17 in Le Mans has been postponed, becoming the sixth MotoGP race to be called off because of the coronavirus outbreak. The motorcycling series has yet to start its season. The season-opener in Qatar was canceled, the Thailand, Americas and Argentina races were postponed to October-November, and the Spanish MotoGP has yet to find new dates. The next race at risk is the Italian MotoGP on May 31. ___ World Sailing has canceled the World Cup Series Final in Enoshima, Japan, in June because of the coronavirus outbreak. The regatta was to give valuable competition for the Olympic classes just over a month before the start of the Tokyo Games. The Olympics have been postponed to 2021. World Sailing and Japanese officials were in talks to return to Enoshima in 2021 before the rescheduled Olympics. ___ Brescia president Massimo Cellino says he will forfeit his team's remaining Serie A matches if the Italian soccer league resumes. Brescia is the third-worst hit province in Italy with more than 8,500 coronavirus cases and more than 1,300 deaths. In an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, Cellino says “this season doesn’t make sense anymore.” He says “returning to activity is pure craziness. If they force us to I am ready to not put out the team and lose the matches 3-0 by default out of respect for the citizens of Brescia and their loved ones who aren’t here anymore.” Brescia is in last place in the league standings. The president of Lazio recently accused Cellino of trying to avoid relegation. Cellino says “I don’t care at all about relegation. So far we have deserved it and I have my blame in that, too.' ___ Potential hosts of soccer's 2027 Asian Cup have been given more time to enter the contest by the Asian Football Confederation. The AFC says the March deadline to show interest was extended by three months to June because many of its member federations have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The Saudi Arabian soccer body said in February it wanted to host the 24-team tournament. China will host the 2023 edition. A return to western Asia is possible after the United Arab Emirates staged the 2019 tournament. The AFC is planning for a 2027 tournament but a FIFA task force drafting a future calendar of matches and tournaments will likely be asked to align continental championships. The European Championship and South America’s Copa America are on track to kick off in June 2028. ___ More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • On the day of what would have been their home opener, the Braves plan to present an “At Home Opener” via social-media channels Friday.  The 90-minute programming will begin at 5:30 p.m. and will include remote interviews by Braves broadcasters with general manager Alex Anthopoulos, manager Brian Snitker and first baseman Freddie Freeman.  » MORE: 10 Braves season openers The Braves said the programming also will include the national anthem performed by Timothy Miller, messages from players and appearances by ballpark regulars “RaceTrac’s Beat the Freeze” and “The Home Depot Tool Race,” among other features. The program, which will be hosted by Braves in-game emcee Mark Owens, will run until 7 p.m. on the Braves’ YouTube, Facebook and Los Bravos Facebook platforms.  It will lead to Fox Sports South’s telecast of a replay of the Braves’ home opener from last year — an 8-0 win over the Chicago Cubs — starting at 7 p.m. The Braves originally were scheduled to open the 2020 season at Arizona last week and were scheduled to play their home opener against the Miami Marlins at Truist Park on Friday night. The MLB season is postponed indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Even with major leaguers likely to receive some semblance of another spring training to get ready, teams are going to have to be creative with how they handle starting pitchers whenever baseball returns. The last thing anyone wants is arm problems to arise almost immediately after baseball restarts -- whenever that ends up being because of coronavirus outbreak. “Possibly having a six-man rotation or something along those lines. Maybe a piggyback situation for us just those first couple outings,” Seattle left-hander Marco Gonzales said during a conference call on Tuesday. Gonzales was slated to be the Mariners' starter on opening day. “Maybe we go three or four innings for the starters. And that’s who this affects most really is starting pitchers. Maybe we have a piggyback situation or something along those lines. Like I said, those are things we need to get creative with,' he said. No one knows when baseball will start again after being derailed by the COVID-19 virus pandemic. Players want to play as many games as possible -- even into November and December possibly -- without risking their health. For pitchers, and specifically starters, the unknowns can be unnerving. After weeks in Arizona and Florida of building up arm strength pointed toward the start of the regular season, they’re back into offseason mode trying not to lose all that was gained during spring training. “I think that as starting pitchers — I'm speaking for myself and probably a bunch of other guys on the team — we're doing everything we can to maintain kind of where we were, getting our up-and-downs and our pitch counts and all of that,” Chicago White Sox All-Star Lucas Giolito said. “Despite limited resources, we're able to pick up a ball and throw it and change intensities and measure it out,' he said. 'I think when it does come time for us to play again, we've already been communicating pretty much on a weekly basis with our coaching staff and training staff and everything like that. We'll just kind of pick it up and kind of gauge where guys are at and make decisions from there.” Gonzales said he’s viewing this stretch as though it’s the December portion of his offseason throwing program. He’s been trying to find empty fields near his home in Seattle to go throw on occasion with a teammate, but it’s mostly been limited to just long toss. Still, between the limited throwing and having a home gym in his basement, Gonzales estimated between three to four weeks of build-up would probably be needed to get ready for the start of a season. Gonzales also stressed that teams should be allowed to carry extra players to help ease the burden. “I'm trying to stay at a point where I can easily ramp up in three to four weeks,” Gonzales said. “That's different for everyone, so I hope everyone is staying diligent about that because it is going to be important to start on time when we do start.” While starters likely need more time to replenish their arm strength, Minnesota’s Taylor Rogers said relievers shouldn’t have much trouble getting themselves prepared. But he also didn’t envy the uncertainty starters are facing. “If this goes six, eight weeks of nothing, do you expect your starters to be throwing 50-pitch bullpens for eight weeks?” Rogers recently said. “That’s kind of a lot on the arm for nothing, basically. I think the starters are in the toughest spot right now, with not knowing the date, and they obviously take the longest to get ready.” ___ AP Sports Writers Andrew Seligman in Chicago and Dave Campbell in Minneapolis contributed to this story. ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Gerrit Cole, Mike Trout and other veteran major leaguers will receive $4,775 per day in advance pay for the first 60 days of the season during the stoppage caused by the new coronavirus, a total of $286,500. That's just 2.5% percent of the $193,548 the New York Yankees pitcher and Los Angeles Angels outfielder were scheduled to earn each day during the 186-day season from their $36 million salaries, tied for the major league high this year. The daily total was obtained by The Associated Press after it was confirmed by Major League Baseball and the players' association following their agreement last week on how to proceed during the stoppage. Less veteran players receive smaller amounts specified in the agreement: $16,500, $30,000 or $60,000, depending on the contract. MLB has delayed opening day until mid-May at the earliest, and it remains unclear when or if the season will start. Under the terms of the deal, teams are combining to give $170 million in advance pay to players on 40-man rosters, injured lists and outright assignments to the minor leagues. The payments will be made in equal installments on the normal payroll schedule and do not have to be repaid is the season is scrapped. They cover from March 26, the original opening day, through May 24 or whenever the season starts, whichever is earlier. Money is being split into four classes based on contract status. Young players not yet eligible for salary arbitration have what baseball calls split contracts, with different salaries depending on whether the player is in the major leagues or in the minors. Payments to the more senior players were determined by accounting for the less senior players, then dividing the remainder among players with so-called straight salaries — the same amount in the majors and minors. A player receives $275 daily if his salary while in the minors is $46,000 to $91,799, a group that includes highly touted rookies such as Boston infielder Bobby Dalbec and Atlanta outfielder Cristian Pache. Those with salaries in the minors from $91,800 to $149,999, a group that has signed at least their second big league contract, get $500 daily. Those players include well-regarded rookies such as Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Gavin Lux and Tampa Bay pitcher Brendan McKay. Players with salaries in the minors of $150,000 or more receive $1,000 daily, among them 2019 NL Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso of the New York Mets, 2019 AL Rookie of the Year Yordan Álvarez and 2018 AL Rookie of the Year Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels. Those with single salaries get the $4,775 a day. By agreeing to a long-term contract in January, White Sox outfielder Luis Robert moved up to that category. Projected over a full 186-day season, the payments would work out to salaries of $888,150, $186,000, $93,000 and $51,150. Players with straight salaries had the right to opt out of the advance payments, but none did in order to simplify the process, the players' association said Tuesday. Illustrating the huge gap between unionized major leaguers and those with minor league contracts, MLB said Tuesday it was extending its $400 weekly allowances through May for players with minor league deals. ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • If the final pitch of the 2020 baseball season comes closer to Christmas than Halloween, that's fine with the players. Major League Baseball owners ratified a 17-page agreement with the union on Friday in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with players willing to extend the season as long as needed to cover as close to a full schedule as possible. Even if it involves neutral sites in warm-weather cities and domes. Even if it involves playing in empty ballparks. Even if it involves lots of day-night doubleheaders. And if it means expanding the playoffs from 10 teams, fine. “Players want to play. That's what we do,” said union head Tony Clark, a former All-Star first baseman. “Being able to get back on the field and being able to play, even if that means their fans are watching at home, but being able to play for their fans is something they've all expressed a desire and an interest to do, and to do so as soon as possible.' The deal provides for $170 million in advances from salaries that total more than $4 billion and guarantees service time to players even if no games are played this year. That means Mookie Betts, George Springer, Marcus Stroman, Trevor Bauer and J.T. Realmuto remain on track for free agency next offseason. This season was to start Thursday and Game 7 of the World Series was on track to be Oct. 28. With opening day postponed until mid-May at the earliest, the final pitch could come as Frosty the Snowman starts popping up. The sides discussed a regular season extending into October and a postseason in November. “We would play as long as we possibly could. Obviously, the weather becomes a challenge the later you get in the calendar year,” Clark said. “But we would do our best to play as many games as possible regardless of when we start.” A bigger playoff field will be considered. “Is this a year where trying different things could be of benefit, and that is one of the things that in a one-year trial could be a benefit,” Clark said. When the season can start is beyond the control of MLB and the union. If games are missed, players will receive prorated shares of their salaries. “Each of the parties shall work in good faith to as soon as is practicable commence, play, and complete the fullest 2020 championship season and post-season that is economically feasible,” the agreement says. There must be no legal restrictions on mass gathering and travel, and a determination play “does not pose an unreasonable health and safety risk to players, staff or spectators.” MLB agreed with the union to use “best efforts to play as many games as possible, while taking into account player safety and health, rescheduling needs, competitive considerations, stadium availability, and the economic feasibility of various alternatives.” Players would consider waiving the rule against playing no more than 20 days in a row. It remains unclear what the minimum number of games needed for a season would be. “We haven't discussed an exact number,” Clark said. Players ratified the deal Thursday night. They would keep their salary advances if no games are played in 2020 and waived their claim to additional salaries if the season is scrapped. MLB threatened to stop the amateur draft and international amateur signings, which account for about $400 million in annual bonuses. Teams gained the right to cut the draft from its usual 40 rounds to as few as five this year and as few as 20 in 2021. Signing bonuses for players in the draft and for international amateurs will be frozen at 2019 levels through 2021. “It is not ideal,' Clark said. “The players were committed to preserving entry in some form, which was quite different than what was being represented from the other side.” It remains unclear whether the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles will be played on July 14. 'Obviously, the calendar is going to to dictate a lot of what can and can't be done,' Clark said.
  • Mike Trout hit two home runs off Zack Greinke and scored four times to help the Los Angeles Angels beat the Houston Astros 9-6 on opening day. Alas, the game was played on a computer, not on the field. But as fans of the popular sports game Strat-O-Matic can attest, make-believe boxscores can be fun too. Fifteen of them were generated Thursday by Strat-O-Matic — one for every real game postponed on opening day because of the coronavirus. The results came via computer simulations, which the New York-based company will continue to run daily while the real thing is on hiatus. “People miss baseball, us included,” said Adam Richman, whose father created Strat-O-Matic as an 11-year-old in 1948. “This is a way to bring a little bit of baseball to everyone in their homes. We know baseball will be back, but until then there’s Strat-O-Matic.” Howie Kendrick hit a tiebreaking solo home run in the ninth inning to help the World Series champion Nationals beat the Mets 4-3. Pinch hitter Brock Holt's three-run homer in the bottom of the 11th inning gave the Brewers a 7-4 victory over the Cubs. The Orioles scored twice in the seventh off Adam Ottavino to win 3-2 and spoil Gerrit Cole's debut with the Yankees. Trout, coming off his third AL MVP award, homered in the first and again in the fourth. The computer didn't report on the reception the Astros received from the crowd in Houston or the opposition in the wake of their sign-stealing scandal. 'I notice nobody was hit by a pitch,' Strat-O-Matic research director John Garcia joked. The simulations generated full boxes, including attendance and time of game. Pace was much-improved — each actual game took only about 10 seconds on the computer. Until the real games return, Strat-O-Matic will announce each day's results on its website and social channels. Standings and season statistics will be updated, and fans are invited to help select pitchers and lineups. “Everybody is craving baseball,” Garcia said. “We’re glad we have a way of delivering it to people.” Trout's big day reflected the kind of realism that helped popularize Strat, as fans call it. While the data-crunching company still sells a board game that has changed little since the 1960s, it also offers a digital game and has expanded into football, basketball and hockey. Last year was Strat's best yet, and business is even more brisk since the pandemic, Richman said. “It's like a lot of content companies who are able to provide entertainment while people are hunkered down at home, whether it be Netflix or Hulu,” Richman said. “In some ways we’re no different. Amid all this that is so difficult, bringing some joy is wonderful.' ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports ___ Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Steve_Wine.
  • Former Braves owner Bill Bartholomay, who moved the franchise from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966 to become Major League Baseball's first team in the South, has died. He was 91. Bartholomay died Wednesday at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, according to his daughter, Jamie. Braves Hall of Famer Hank Aaron said on his Twitter account Bartholomay “was the greatest owner I ever had the pleasure to play for. He understood the game of baseball more than so many others. I’ve known him for a longtime and he’s helped me in more ways than you can imagine. I will surely miss my friend.” Bartholomay attended spring training at the Braves' new facility in North Port, Florida, last month before the coronavirus pandemic caused MLB to suspend spring training and delay the start of the season. In the 1990s, Bartholomay provided key support to baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who grew up in Milwaukee rooting for the Braves and later owned the Brewers. Bartholomay headed the group that sold the Braves to Ted Turner in 1976 but retained a partial interest and remained as the team's chairman until November 2003, when he assumed an emeritus role. “There is baseball in Atlanta today because of Bill Bartholomay,” the Braves said in a statement Thursday. “He was part of our organization for the last 57 years and never missed an opening day or significant event,” the team said. “He was a dear, thoughtful friend whose presence will be missed, but his legacy will surely stand the test of time for the Atlanta Braves and all of baseball.” Bartholomay was a Chicago area-based insurance executive, and he helped sell many insurance policies for player contracts to big league clubs. Bartholomay led the group that owned the Milwaukee Braves before making the controversial decision to move the team to Atlanta. Despite death threats, he completed the move. He remained with the team when Turner took control and when Time Warner acquired the franchise in 1996 as the company merged with Turner Broadcasting System. Bartholomay was inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame in 2002. The team said Bartholomay deserved credit for “helping shape Atlanta as a major city in the South when he relocated the Braves from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966. His warmth and grace were felt equally by presidents, MLB commissioners, business titans, Braves players and fans.” After Selig became chairman of baseball's executive council in 1992, Bartholomay headed the commissioner search committee that recommended Arnold Weber, then the Northwestern University president, and Harvey Schiller, then with the U.S. Olympic Committee. But owners suspended the search and Selig wound up remaining in power until 2015. Bartholomay also headed MLB's ownership committee. “Besides being one of the most important figures in the game of baseball for more than five decades, Bill Bartholomay was truly a wonderful person and one of my closest friends in the world,' Selig said. 'His wise counsel and calming views were critical throughout my years as baseball commissioner. My wife, Sue, and I will miss him terribly and we offer our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.” Said MLB commissioner Rob Manfred: 'For more than half a century, Bill Bartholomay contributed significantly to the governance of baseball. More importantly, he played a role in fostering the game’s spirit of social responsibility, philanthropy and inclusion. He was a dear friend to many of us in the game, and he will be greatly missed.” ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

News

  • Two Florida law enforcement officers who tested positive for the coronavirus have died. Broward County Deputy Shannon Bennett, 39, died Friday, and Palm Beach County Sgt. Jose Diaz Ayala, 38, died Saturday, officials said. Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said Bennett, a 12-year veteran of the agency, reported feeling sick March 23 while at work and tested positive for the virus at a hospital the next day. Bennett was hospitalized March 27 and had been showing signs of recovery, but his condition worsened Friday, Tony said. Tony said Saturday that he considers Bennett’s death to be one in the line of duty. The agency described Bennett as an “out and proud gay law enforcement deputy” who helped lead an outreach initiative to foster relations between the law enforcement and LGBTQ communities. He served as a school resource officer at Deerfield Beach Elementary School, where he also mentored students. Bennett was planning to get married later this year. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said Ayala had been battling other underlying health conditions before contracting COVID-19. He had been with the agency for 14 years. Ayala joined the Sheriff’s Office’s Corrections Division in 2006 as a deputy and was promoted to sergeant in 2016. “He had an outstanding career with the agency and was respected by all of his peers,' Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said. Ayala leaves behind three daughters.
  • An Atlanta-area family is thankful for an act of kindness during the chaotic coronavirus pandemic. In 2013, Jamie McHenry was killed in a car crash during spring break in West Palm Beach, Florida, WSB-TV reported. Every year since his death, McHenry’s parents make the trip from their home in North Fulton County to St. George Island on the Florida Panhandle to pay their respects to their 13-year-old son at a memorial. This year, they could not go because of the coronavirus pandemic. But that didn’t mean the memory of their teen son was forgotten. A random stranger in the area heard the family’s story and decided to step in and make sure Jamie McHenry’s memorial was still decorated. The kind stranger, who posted a photo of the good deed on Facebook, wrote: “Christine and the McHenry family … we were sad to read that due to this pandemic your annual trip to SGI was canceled and you will miss visiting the memorial brick for your son Jamie. Wanted to know we are watching over it for you today and he is in our thoughts. God bless.”
  • Amoco and its parent company, BP, announced their gasoline stations will offer a 50-cent discount per gallon to first responders, doctors, nurses and hospital workers during the coronavirus pandemic. “Thank you for being on the front lines and keeping our communities healthy and safe,' the company said on its website. 'We are honored to be supporting you and helping you get where you need to go,” the company said on its website.The discount, which eligible customers can sign up for, will allow the health care workers to take the discount the next time they fill up, BP said on its website. People who want to take advantage of the discount must verify their status through ID.me, a website that “simplifies how individuals prove and share their identity online.”
  • Can’t get enough of “Tiger King”? Don’t despair. Netflix is releasing an extra episode next week, Variety reported. “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” is a true-crime docuseries about wild animal owners in the United States. The documentary focuses on the self-proclaimed Tiger King, Joe Exotic, aka Joseph Maldonado-Passage, who keeps hundreds of wild animals in cages at his G.W. Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma, Entertainment Weekly reported. Current zoo owner Jeff Lowe broke the news in a Cameo video posted on Twitter by Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Justin Turner. “Netflix is adding one more episode. It will be on next week. They’re filming here tomorrow,” Lowe said in the video. Lowe joined later episodes of “Tiger King” as Exotic’s business partner, Entertainment Weekly reported. It is not clear if the new episode will be a follow-up to the show’s seven-episode run or a reunion, Variety reported. Maldonado-Passage, 57, is currently serving a 22-year sentence in federal prison for two counts of murder-for-hire, eight counts of falsifying wildlife records and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act. The murder-for-hire charges stem from a plot to have a hitman kill Carole Baskin of Tampa, Florida, and the wildlife crimes are related to Maldonado-Passage’s killing of five tigers and falsifying of paperwork. Netflix did not respond to a request for comment about a new episode, the magazine reported.
  • Georgians are still feeling the weight of the new coronavirus Sunday as the number of confirmed cases increased to 6,647 and the death toll rose to 211.  The Georgia Department of Public Health reports since Saturday 3 more Georgians have died due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel virus. The latest data released at noon shows 264 new cases since Saturday evening.  » COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia Of Georgia’s overall cases, 1,283 patients remain hospitalized, a rate of about 19%, according to the noon figures. That number is up from 1,266 confirmed hospitalizations Saturday evening. The rate of Georgia patients who have died of COVID-19 is about 3.1%.  The number of COVID-19 cases in the state has tripled in just over a week. Health officials announced that Georgia surpassed 2,000 cases on March 27. A statewide shelter-in-place mandate went into effect at 6 p.m. Friday in an effort to limit residents’ travel and curb the spread of the virus. The order requires Georgians to remain in their homes for all but essential activities, which include buying food, seeking medical care, working in critical jobs or exercising outdoors. » RELATED: Confusion surrounds Georgia’s coronavirus lockdown The number of cases across the state is expected to spike even more in coming weeks as plans are put in place to increase daily testing capacity. Projections suggest the state could see thousands of new cases and hundreds more deaths before the virus is contained. On Sunday, 27,832 tests had been conducted across the state with about 23.88% returning positive results.  » DASHBOARD: Real-time stats and charts tracking coronavirus in Georgia Fulton County has the most cases with 962, followed by Dougherty County with 686, DeKalb County with 543, and Cobb with 456, according to the latest data. Fulton reported 21 new cases since Saturday evening while hard-hit Dougherty County reported 50 more. The southwest Georgia county of about 90,000 has lost 30 residents to COVID-19, more than any other county in Georgia. MORE: City under siege: Coronavirus exacts heavy toll in Albany So far, the oldest patient to die in the state was a 96-year-old Bibb County woman while the youngest was a 29-year-old woman from Peach County, according to the health department.  For most, COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and those with existing health problems are at risk of more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover in a matter of weeks. Those who believe they are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19 are asked to contact their primary care doctor or an urgent care clinic. Do not show up unannounced at an emergency room or health care facility. Georgians can also call the state COVID-19 hotline at 844-442-2681 to share public health information and connect with medical professionals. 
  • As you drive toward the Marietta Square, you’ll see it to your right – a “Heroes Work Here” sign display below the Wellstar Kennestone hospital sign. Go through two traffic lights and you’ll see homemade signs of support in the front yards of some homeowners along Church Street.   From Marietta to elsewhere in metro Atlanta, residents are now acutely aware of the burden on health care workers as the coronavirus crisis plays out … and with likely many more tough days ahead before it all gets better.  What public shows of support for health care workers are you seeing in your local community? What are you and/or others doing to support those most at risk on the coronavirus frontlines? Tweet at us to tell us with your words and pictures: @wsbradio. You can also share with us on the WSB Open Mic, via the WSB Radio app.