Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers' Pitcher Ross Stripling Optimistic of an MLB Opening Day on Fourth of July

Los Angeles Dodgers' pitcher Ross Stripling has his own scenario on how and when we can see the return of Major League Baseball.

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Baseball is missed.

Maybe it's the smell of freshly cut grass, hot dogs, garlic fries, and cotton candy when you enter the ballpark.

Or it could be the sound of the ball hitting the bat, the roar of the crowd after a phenomenal run-saving catch, or a sold-out stadium doing the wave.

Okay…maybe we don't miss the wave.

If and when Major League Baseball returns, there are a multitude of options on the table for how, when, and what that might look like.

"I think it's incumbent upon us to turn over every stone to try to play the game in 2020 if there's any way we can in the environment," said MLB commissioner Rob Manfred in a statement to NBC News. "I think we all need, no matter what your predilection is, to wait for the situation to unfold more, give us more information and then make realistic decisions about what's possible."

Among the many possibilities are a return in May with all 30 MLB teams quarantined in Arizona.


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Or baseball could return in June without the American and National League, with the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues taking their place in spring training facilities across the great states of Arizona and Florida, respectively.

Baseball could even return solely within the state of California with all 30 MLB teams shuttling up and down the pacific coast.

Full schedule. Shortened schedule. With fans or without fans, seemingly everything is on the table at this point. But, if Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling had it his way, Opening Day of the 2020 MLB season would take place at Dodger Stadium on the Fourth of July.

Stripling recently joined NBC LA via video conference to share his thoughts on how, where, and when he believes the game of baseball could return, and we have to admit, the thought of the Dodgers celebrating a win on the field followed by Fourth of July fireworks has never sounded more appealing.

First and foremost, we should add that Stripling's number one priority is the health, safety, and well-being of the American people. Like most players, Stripling yearns for the day we as a collective country can return to some small sense of normalcy, but not until it's completely safe for everyone.

"I'm still extremely optimistic," Stripling said of baseball's return in 2020. " For me, I think Opening Day on the Fourth of July sounds as American as you can get. How cool would it be? Opening Day of baseball on the Fourth of July. That's what my gut has been saying the whole time."

Stripling is not privy to the internal conversations taking place on a daily basis inside the offices of Major League Baseball on Park Avenue in New York City, but he still believes that a midsummer start to the regular season is not only optimal, but the most realistic option at this point. Not to mention, the perfect synchronicity of the return of the sport known as "America's National Pastime," occurring on the same day as the birth of our great nation.

The former All-Star pitcher has heard the rumblings of all 30 MLB teams convening underneath the hot desert sun of Arizona for multiple months of baseball in empty spring training stadiums, while the players and teams remained quarantined in hotels away from their families. Like his teammate, Clayton Kershaw, Stripling admits he's not in favor of that proposal, but noted that if that's the only way baseball can be played in 2020, he could see a lot of players begrudgingly going along with it.

"It's hard to fathom. Leaving your family for four and a half months," said Stripling of the proposal. "I think if you were to ask around to different players that if that was the only way we could play baseball [in 2020] that we would do it."

In addition to the complicated logistics of the proposal, Stripling believes that if players were forced to player under extreme desert conditions without their families that we would see a diminished product on the field.

"I think it would be a weird product on the field, guys wouldn't be as motivated, we'd be playing in 100 degrees in the summer of Arizona," he said. "Why don't we wait a month, get it to more of a safer place, and play a little bit less games.

Stripling's preference is that the season can begin with all 30 MLB teams playing in their own home ballparks—without fans—and without having to leave their families. Under this scenario all teams would have to fly private in sanitized planes, road teams would have to stay under quarantine in league approved hotels, and be shuttled to and from the ballpark.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's foremost expert on the coronavirus, and the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, agrees with him.

In a recent interview with Jack Curry of the YES Network, Fauci said he is also optimistic that baseball can return this year, but admitted the environment will look nothing like the one fans are accustomed to.

"I think it's reasonable that baseball could return," said Fauci in the interview. "You could either have a situation where the players are in a few cities and you test them, and you have baseball in a spectatorless environment. The revenues are not going to be the same, but I think having them play on television is certainly better than nothing."

Fauci said he could foresee a situation similar to Stripling's where all 30 MLB teams are able to play in their home ballparks with limited amounts of fans wearing masks, and practicing social distancing guidelines, but he believes the best proposal is one where all 30 MLB teams are located within one city. Fauci believes this would give baseball more control over the environment, better surveillance and tracing methods in case a player tested positive, and eliminate the complications of out-of-state travel.

"Put players in big hotels wherever you want to play, keep them well surveilled, and have them tested every single week," said Fauci. "You need to make sure they don't wind up infecting each other or their family. Just let them play the season out."

Stripling also grapples with the complexities of players testing positive in his preferred scenario. Even with proper protocols and guidelines, frequent testing, and increased safety measures, a player testing positive is likely inevitable. Stripling believes rosters would need to be expanded in the event a player does test positive for COVID-19, and that the player would immediately need to be placed on the injured list and quarantined away from the team until they have fully recovered.

Stripling's proposal could work on a limited basis, but even he admits that once four-to-five players on a single team all test positive for COVID-19, that the league would have no choice but to suspend the season again.

That's something that Manfred agrees with, and is hoping to avoid if the season were to return in 2020. In the interim, Manfred remains in a state of flux like the rest of the world, anxiously awaiting for the virus to decide when our country can bounce back and rebuild.

"Only one decision has been made with respect to the 2020 season: Major League Baseball will return to the field only when public health officials agree that it is appropriate to play and when we are convinced that our return to the field is safe for players, employees and fans."

So in the meantime, Stripling will wait with the rest of us, struggling to finds ways to pass the time underneath the monotony of self-isolation. He and his wife are quarantining at their home in Houston, and passing the time by putting together puzzles, recording Tik Tok videos, reading books, playing video games, and exercising.

The full interview with Ross Stripling can be watched in its entirety in the video above.

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