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Opening Day two weeks away, Tigers 'remain flexible' as coronavirus pandemic escalates

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — In good years and bad, Tigers' Opening Day long has been considered the city's biggest annual sports party.

A serious buss kill appears to be looming for 2020, though.

Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers are set to open the season later this month.

The Tigers are scheduled to open the regular season two weeks from today, in Cleveland — that, of course, is in Ohio, where the governor has called for a fan ban on all large sporting events as the coronavirus outbreak escalates.

Then, four days later, on March 30, the Tigers will play their home opener, against the Kansas City Royals.

Or, will they?

"Public health and safety of our fans is our first priority at all of our venues," the Ilitch Company, owner of the Tigers and Red Wings, said in a statement. "In addition to following CDC guidelines, we are staying in close touch with local, state and federal health agencies, industry leaders and league officials on best practices.

"We have also intensified cleaning/disinfecting procedures of highly trafficked surface and common areas.

"We will remain flexible as new information becomes available."

The Red Wings haven't announced any set-in-stone changes to their schedule, nor has the NHL as a whole, though the heat by turned up on the league now that the NBA has suspended its season until further notice.

The Red Wings and Pistons share Little Caesars Arena, where Rudy Gobert and the Utah Jazz played Saturday. Gobert has been ID'd as the player who tested positive for coronavirus, forcing the NBA's suspension decision Wednesday night. The Pistons reportedly are in self-quarantine.

Major League Baseball hasn't yet decided what it's going to do, but some teams seem all but certain to be affected. The Seattle Mariners, with Washington one of the hot spots for the coronavirus, announced they will move their games out of the state until at least the end of March. The five teams in California — the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres and Oakland A's — also will have decisions to make, either whether to move games or go fan-less, with that state's governor, like Ohio's, announcing a ban on more than 250 fans at public events late Wednesday night.

Earlier Wednesday, the NCAA announced its basketball tournaments would be fan-less, as would its hockey championship, the Frozen Four, to take place in Detroit in April.

Michigan was the 37th state to see coronavirus cases, and since that announcement by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer late Tuesday night, several events have been cancelled, including the Zac Brown Band concert that had been scheduled for Saturday at Little Caesars Arena, as well as this weekend's Corktown St. Patrick's Day. WWE, reportedly, is cancelling its Friday "SmackDown" show at LCA.

LCA employees have been told to expect many more cancellations in the coming days.

Outdoor events, like at Comerica Park, haven't seemed to catch the heat of indoor events, yet. The PGA Tour's Players Championship is scheduled to be played this week in Florida in front of fans.

As MLB mulls what to do, the league has told teams to avoid signing autographs and interacting too close with fans, in a league-wide memo the Tigers have received. Many teams have taken to signing baseballs before the game, to toss into the stands, as a fan-pleasing alternative.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984