Mitch McConnell says he pressured MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to start baseball season

As some states open for business amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is ramping up pressure on sports to do the same.

He’s starting with baseball.

McConnell’s pitch to Manfred

McConnell talked politics and the COVID-19 pandemic with Drew Deener and Jason Nemes of sports radio 93.9 FM (h/t @ USA Today) in Louisville on Thursday and said he called MLB commissioner Rob Manfred directly to make his plea.

"I called the commissioner of baseball a couple weeks ago and said, ‘America needs baseball,’” McConnell said. “It’s a sign of getting back to normal. Any chance?’”

McConnell also addressed college football and said that he anticipates games will be played in the fall.

"If we can salvage part of baseball, surely we can salvage football, as well," McConnell said. ... "I think the country needs sports.

“We’ve all missed that during the pandemic, and the sooner we can get at least some of our sports — and I think the one eligible to begin first, would be baseball — it would be a great morale-booster for the country and an indication that we are going to begin to get back to normal.”

Mitch McConnell said he made a personal plea to Rob Manfred to start baseball again. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Medical experts urge caution

MLB’s season remains in a holding pattern as medical experts urge against rushing back to normal life at the risk of worsening the pandemic that sees nearly one-third of the world’s confirmed coronavirus cases in United States. As of Friday, there were more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. with more than 63,000 confirmed deaths.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the face of the U.S. public health front against the pandemic, said on Thursday that he hopes MLB can return sometime this year and that the resumption of games would be good for the nation’s mental health.

But he said on Tuesday that America is not ready yet.

“I would love to be able to have all sports back,” Fauci told the New York Times. “But as a health official and a physician and a scientist, I have to say, right now, when you look at the country, we’re not ready for that yet.”

Florida, Texas open for business

Baseball is floating several ideas to get back to the diamond, with some of them reportedly focused on games being played with three divisions at neutral sites in Florida, Texas and Arizona. Multiple reports point to a planned July return.

McConnell’s stance aligns with that of fellow Republican leadership in Florida and Texas with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordering business open in his state on Friday and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis laying out a plan to open business in his state on May 4.

Texas saw a spike in COVID-19 deaths Thursday, a day before businesses opened back up.

Whenever baseball starts again, it will have to be in states that allow the operation of non-essential businesses — or at least consider sports to be essential.

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