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Baker says pro sports can come back, but makes no promises about fans

Governor Charlie Baker, joined by Red Sox president Sam Kennedy, announced that Phase 3 of reopening will include pro sports being allowed to resume, without fans in attendance.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Governor Charlie Baker is like a lot of sports fans in Massachusetts these days.

“I love watching those old sports,” Baker said, “but it’s about time we get back to real sports.”

On Thursday, Baker took a big step toward the resumption of live games when he announced the state will enter Phase 3 of its reopening Monday. As part of Phase 3, professional sports will be allowed to resume, without fans.

So, how long do fans have to wait before being allowed back in the stands? Baker is not ready to say.

“I hesitate to speculate about stuff that gets too far down the road because, in many cases, we continue to learn about the coronavirus over time,” he said.

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“If you go back to March 10, that was only 115 days ago, and the amount of things we’ve learned about coronavirus between March 10 and today ... there is a constantly changing and growing set of facts.”

According to previously released guidelines, individuals will be allowed to gather in large groups at events — such as concerts, and, yes, Red Sox games — under Phase 4 of reopening. But there is no timetable for when that will be implemented, and Baker implied that a vaccine must be in place before he’ll allow it.

“I generally try to say we’re making the best decision we can based on the best data available from the experts that we’ve talked to at this point,” he said. “When it comes to fans, especially in larger venues, I hesitate to take a position one way or another.

“I know today, the answer to that question ... is no. If you ask me the answer to that question three months from now, it depends on the facts on the ground, the data collection and everything else. It might be the same answer.”

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker speaks about Phase 3 of the state's reopening plan during a media availability at Fenway on Thursday.Jimmy Golen/Associated Press

Baker’s answer may temper the optimism expressed by Red Sox president Sam Kennedy last month, when he said he hopes to see fans at Fenway Park this year.

On Thursday, Kennedy reiterated the Red Sox’ safety plans and complimented the state’s leaders and health care workers in the fight against the pandemic, saying they were the reason the Red Sox can open training camp at Fenway Friday.

“We hope that our games will offer a small escape at a time when it’s most needed,” Kennedy said. “We hope that we can establish a sense of normalcy for our fans.”

He also emphasized that as the state works toward minimizing the risk of COVID-19 to its citizens, the Red Sox will be doing the same for their players. Major League Baseball has released a document outlining health and safety protocols that the Red Sox are following, and every player and staffer was tested this week upon return to the facility.

After receiving the test, each individual has to wait 48 hours for results before he can gather with others at the park. Not all tests have been returned, and Kennedy declined to share any data. Instead, MLB will be releasing information about any positive tests.

How soon will it be before we see fans back at Fenway?Jim Davis/Globe Staff

In addition to training at Fenway Park, the Red Sox will use facilities at Boston College, Kennedy confirmed Thursday, to help players prepare for the season, which is set to begin in the third week of July.

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Kennedy acknowledged that there are concerns among players and staff.

“But from my conversations with our guys, they are so excited to get going,” Kennedy said. “You don’t get into pro sports or work in pro sports unless you have an absolute passion and love for the game, and the hardest part, I think, for all of us, is that we can’t be together in person.

“This has been amazing, to see Jackie Bradley and J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts ... [the players] haven’t seen each other since March 12, down at spring training.”


Katie McInerney can be reached at katie.mcinerney@globe.com. Follow her @k8tmac.