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Compensating ballpark workers for lost time among Orioles’ considerations amid coronavirus delay

SARASOTA, FLA. — With their remaining eight spring training home games canceled and their first six regular-season games at Camden Yards delayed at best, the Orioles have not yet determined whether they will compensate ballpark employees at either Ed Smith Stadium or Oriole Park for work time lost.

On Thursday, the international coronavirus pandemic prompted Major League Baseball to cancel all remaining spring training games and delay the start of the regular season by at least two weeks, one of many impacts throughout sports worldwide. The Orioles were set to begin the 2020 campaign March 26 at home against the New York Yankees as part of a three-game series before hosting the Boston Red Sox for three games. The club then had a scheduled seven-game road trip to St. Louis and New York that falls within the two-week delay.

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“Just as government agencies and private businesses are grappling with the same circumstances, we have to determine solutions to a myriad of matters over an extended period of time as this public health situation — one unique and unprecedented in our lifetimes — unfolds,” Jennifer Grondahl, the Orioles’ senior vice president for community development and communications, said in a statement. “At the very outset of what may be an extended period of disrupted life, we will make decisions as soon as possible.”

Amid the 2015 protests in Baltimore sparked by the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, three games at Camden Yards were relocated and another was notably played without fans. Another two games were postponed but eventually played in Baltimore as a doubleheader.

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Then, the Orioles reimbursed hourly stadium employees for the time lost for the four games that were either relocated or not open to the public. Workers reimbursed included ushers, ticket takers and security screeners, while Delaware North, which operates food, beverage and retail services at Camden Yards, also reimbursed its employees who missed time at those four games.

It’s possible, for now, that the Orioles will not have to worry about any missed games at Camden Yards whatsoever. The expectation is that the schedule will pick up at the point when the season resumes, meaning as of now, Baltimore’s first game would be either April 9 at New York or April 10 at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

If the delay is minimal enough, it’s possible the league will try to make up the games lost to the delay, allowing the Orioles and other teams to still play their full home slate. The Orioles had 80 scheduled games at Camden Yards, rather than the standard 81, because they are scheduled to host the Red Sox in the Little League Classic in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in August.

If the delay extends deeper into the season, it becomes more likely MLB elects to play a shorter regular season, leading to a reduction of workable hours for ballpark staff across the country.

With the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League suspending their season, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is one of a handful who have already promised to find ways to compensate venue and game staffers for time lost.

Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said on a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon that his focus since the MLB decision has been the baseball operations department that he oversees, but he said the organization is doing what it can to examine all aspects of the situation.

“I know the whole organizational leadership is kinda working overtime to address every aspect of this crisis,” Elias said, “and I’m sure everything’s being looked at."

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