Major League Baseball is already looking ahead to the 2022 season.

The offseason promises to be filled with controversy.

And now Major League Baseball is about to impose one new rule that will change the game forever.

Every year teams send top prospects to the Arizona Fall League so they can polish their game and get some extra reps in before being invited to spring training.

This year, the Arizona Fall league will become the first sports league in America to mandate players get the coronavirus vaccine as a condition of being allowed to play.

The Arizona Republic reports:

Major League Baseball has informed clubs that all players in the upcoming Arizona Fall League must be vaccinated, according to sources. The decision is baseball’s first mandatory vaccination decree affecting players.

The decision comes after a report last week by The Athletic that all non-player personnel, including managers, coaches and support staff, will be required to be vaccinated in order to participate in postseason play.

One executive told The Arizona Republic that MLB decided to use the Arizona Fall League as a test to see if players opposed mandatory vaccinations before trying to impose a forced vaccine requirement on the pros next spring training.

“To be honest, I think this is a precursor to next spring training,” one executive told The Arizona Republic. “They’re going to see what the pushback is and then we’ll have to figure it out from there. That’s my guess.”

Baseball – like the other three major sports leagues – cannot just mandate players take the vaccine.

The league must negotiate any such requirement with the players union.

So far, most leagues avoided that confrontation and just accepted the fact that most of the players got the vaccine anyway.

Major League Baseball – which took the official position in 2021 that voter ID was racist – now appears on the verge of being the first pro sports league to mandate its players get the vaccine.

Sports with Balls will keep you up-to-date on any new developments in this ongoing story.