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Nationals granted D.C. approval to open ballpark for spring training reboot - The Washington Post

The Washington Nationals received approval from the D.C. government to conduct training camp, which begins Wednesday, and play games at their ballpark this season. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

By Gene Wang

Gene Wang

Sports reporter covering local and national college football and basketball

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June 30 at 6:31 PM

This story has been updated.

One day before training camp is scheduled to begin at their ballpark in Southeast, the Washington Nationals were granted approval from the D.C. government for a waiver to conduct practices and play games at Nationals Park.

The World Series champions had submitted their request for a waiver early last week when Major League Baseball and the players’ union finalized an agreement to play the 2020 season, with a modified spring training, or “summer camp,” to resume this week.

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“I think that we will be approving their waiver today,” District Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said Tuesday afternoon during her weekly news conference updating the city’s plans amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. “We will waive them for training and games, [with] no spectators.”

The franchise is required to apply for a waiver based on Bowser’s order that temporarily shuttered on-site operation of nonessential businesses in the nation’s capital to stem the spread of the virus that put sports around the country on hold.

The Nationals, according to Christopher Rodriguez, head of the District’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, initially had applied for a waiver for training only, then submitted a plan to seek approval for games, which are slated to begin July 23 or 24.

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The 2020 regular season is scheduled for 60 games over 66 days, with the Nationals reportedly hosting the New York Yankees on Opening Day.

Approval for resumption of operations at Nationals Park probably would mandate compliance to guidelines similar to those outlined for Monumental Sports and Entertainment as well as D.C. United, both of which received the green light from D.C. HSEMA to resume operations.

Letters of approval sent to Monumental and D.C. United requested contact information for each organization’s medical staff and that any laboratory-confirmed positive tests for covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, be reported immediately to D.C.’s department of health.

Monumental Sports and D.C. United were approved for waivers to operate as the District entered Phase Two of reopening June 22, allowing for, among other facilities, gyms and public pools to operate at limited capacity and with certain restrictions.

The NBA’s Wizards and WNBA’s 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 “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, where, according to John Falcicchio, Bowser’s chief of staff, there will be approximately 250 to 300 people on game days. Initially that figure is to include 30-man rosters for the Nationals and their opponent. Under terms of the agreement struck between MLB and the players’ union, rosters are to be reduced to 28 two weeks after Opening Day and to 26 for the remainder of the season. Each team will have a pool of up to 60 players to form their rosters.

Health concerns surrounding the pandemic have compelled Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, the longest tenured player on the roster, and pitcher Joe Ross to opt out of playing this season.

This season also will be played without fans at all stadiums out of an abundance of caution, particularly with reported cases surging across the country since Memorial Day. More than 2.6 million cases have been reported in the United States, and at least 124,000 have died of covid-19, with hospitalizations spiking in seven states, based on data tracked by The Washington Post.

Julie Zauzmer contributed to this report.