MLB never said this would be easy. Even with no fans in the stands, players and coaches are being tested in more ways than one. So eerie, yet so beautiful.
Major League Baseball (MLB) is back! Well, sort of. Empty ballparks, save for thirty or forty players, never appearing together as a team, arranging the order in which they can shower, with managers trying hard to maintain social distancing (ten feet or more as defined by MLB) in a “private” conversation with a player.
It’s all so eerie in ballparks across America as MLB’s 2020 Summer Camp swings into full mode.
From the crack of the bat to the sound of Gerrit Cole’s 99 MPH fastball snapping into the catcher’s glove, everything is magnified.
The results of MLB’s first round of mandated testing are promising. Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Players Association (MLBA) on Friday jointly announced the results of the first round of COVID-19 testing as camps around the league have reopened.
Of the 3,185 samples collected and tested, 38 came back positive for COVID-19, which happens to a rate of 1.2 percent. Of the 38 positive tests, 31 were players, and seven were non-player personnel. Overall, 19 of the MLB teams had at least one positive test. (Source: CBS Sports))
Teams around the league are coping with a growing list of players “opting out” of the 2020 season. The list includes,
- Mike Leake, RHP, Diamondbacks. Leake was the first player reported to have withdrawn. …
- Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Nationals. …
- Joe Ross, RHP, Nationals. …
- Ian Desmond, OF, Rockies. …
- David Price, LHP, Dodgers. …
- Tyson Ross, RHP, Giants. …
- Felix Hernandez, RHP, Braves.
No team or player is challenging their decision. The matter of their salary for the season is still subject to negotiation, but their decision is made on the pretense; they will not be paid.
MLB: In The Midst Of It All, Baseball Forges On
MLB is show business, and the show must go on. Players are doing backflips to adjust to the rules outlined in the final version of its Operations Manual.
MLB and the MLBPA finally agree on something, and then thaw, even if momentary, is a welcome sign that both owners and players are committed to making the season work despite the odds predicting another spike in COVID-19 cases.
Empty cavernous ballparks like Yankee Stadium stretch the limits of a player’s imagination to experience the feel of 55,000 fans cheering a home run into the short porch to win a game.
At the same time, though, the “sound” of a ball striking the head of Masahiro Tanaka off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton was brought close to home for everyone.
While Tanaka lay still on his side for five minutes, Stanton retreated to a corner of the Yankees dugout, where he remained for the rest of the simulated batting practice.
Yet another reminder – it’s baseball, and so many things can go wrong.
MLB: Above All Else, Make Sure It Stays “Real”
There will be no signed autographs or players drifting over to chat with fans during batting practice. Nor will there be brief moments of connections between a young fan and an All-Star player (video).
But in 2020, fans have a unique connection to the teams and players in a manner that may never be experienced again.
This season is not only about 60 games to determine qualifiers for the postseason and the eventual (asterisked or not) World Champions of baseball.
Instead, this season exposes the players for what they are – human beings – just like you and me. Decisions made today will dramatically affect a player and his family’s future.
It was sobering, for instance, to learn that Jordan Montgomery, pegged as the Yankees fifth starter, is still on the fence as to whether or not he will play the 2020 season.
But for this player, the risks are not only related to safety. By sitting out, Montgomery will have missed two full seasons (injury last year) when 2021 comes around, with budding replacements like Deivi Garcia, Michael King, and Clarke Schmidt lurking behind.
Then, there are the “concerns” of networks and announcers that crowd noise is necessary for their “legitimacy”. One report has the Chicago Cubs inserting crowd news into the telecasts.
A Cubs official put it this way: “I think that the audio without any, we’ll call it white noise or the insertion of fan noise, is a little jarring for the television viewer”. Really?
Then, you are not a fan of baseball.
Eerie Ballparks Are Something To Behold
With God and science on our side, fanless ballparks will be a thing of the past in 2021 and beyond.
For this one season, however, as fans and players, we should welcome the opportunity (literally) of a lifetime to absorb and relish in a single MLB season.
The players are already embracing the team camaraderie required to meet the many challenges that lie ahead to reach the finish line in October.
This fan of more than a half-century can’t wait to experience – not the experience of an empty ballpark – but the beauty and balance of it all.