With the COVID-19 pandemic not yet fully in the rearview, Major League Baseball will once again employ alternate training sites for players who are likely to help fill constantly unstable rosters by swinging between the Major Leagues and Triple-A throughout the season.
Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Ben Cherrington announced on Monday morning that their alternate training sites will be housed by multiple facilities within city limits during the month of April.
While most teams are utilizing nearby minor league or spring training parks, the Pirates will take advantage of facilities closer to home.
Alternate site players will be given a locker at Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and conduct workouts primarily at neighboring PNC Park. When the Pirates play home games, the players assigned to the alternate sight will workout at Charles L. Cost Field, the home field of Pitt baseball.
“The Pirates organization is extremely grateful to both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the University of Pittsburgh for allowing our players and staff to use their first-class facilities during the first month of the season,” Cherington said in a press release. “It is a great example of the unique bond each of the professional teams and Pitt share with each other and part of what makes Pittsburgh such a special place.”
Members at the alternate site will also travel to play games against other teams of alternate site players in Ohio and Kentucky.
The Panthers are in the middle of a 16-game homestand and are scheduled to play all but three games in April at Cost Field, but the team will not be impacted by the Pirates’ use of the field, according to program spokesperson Korey Blucas.
He told Pittsburgh Sports Now that Pitt head coach Mike Bell and the Panthers will have priority over scheduling practices and while games with early start times “might look a little different,” the Pirates will work around Pitt’s schedule.
Bell was confident that scheduling will not be an issue. He says there is an understanding of when Pitt needs the field and when the Pirates can get workouts in around that schedule.
“I think there’s an understanding of what our windows are when we need to do things, Bell said. “I think they understand what’s important for us on game days or even non-game days and the things that we need to do to continue to develop our student athletes and keep everybody safe. And ultimately they know what they’re trying to do with their guys to keep it fresh as an alternate site for covid and those types of things.”
The Panthers usually practice in the afternoon, so the Pirates will use the field primarily in the mornings and evenings. The two groups will not use the same spaces at Cost Field at the same time, according to Blucas.
Out of an abundance of caution in regards to COVID-19, Pitt players will not be able to interact with the Pirates players who will borrow their field. But Bell thinks that there are still some benefits to having professionals share a field with his college team.
“With the COVID protocols as they are, I don’t foresee them intertwining or mingling or being able to observe each other,” Bell said. “I think we’ll have our time, they’ll have their time. But I think it’s always nice to know that if it’s good enough for a Major League team, it should be good enough for our guys.”
Workouts for members of the alternate site team will be closed to both media and the public, according to Blucas.