Well, Chris Davis is going to wear a mask at first base, give that a try, because as fragile as it all felt a few days ago — a pointless there and back to Miami — a cluster of infected players and a schedule change tend to reinforce the obvious. That is, whatever happened to the Miami Marlins, however the virus managed to jump them, could probably happen to anyone.
Davis, the Baltimore Orioles first baseman, has a wife and three daughters at home. The five of them are at the mercy of every decision made by every player on every roster in baseball. That’s been clear from the get-go, in fact from the moment the league sent everybody home from the first spring training. Sitting in a hotel room in Florida, a state that’s getting the worst of it, then watching the next day’s opponent accumulate positive tests and go into quarantine, as the Orioles did, tends to summon a moment eager for reassessment.
On Sunday, the Orioles beat the Boston Red Sox for the second time in three days and then flew to Miami for a two-game series against the Marlins. The Marlins never showed. So the Orioles flew home, where on Wednesday and Thursday they were to host the Marlins. Instead, they’ll play the New York Yankees, who were scheduled to play the Philadelphia Phillies, also in quarantine because they’d spent a long weekend in the vicinity of the Marlins.
“It was a little unnerving,” Davis said, “to sit there and just to see everything that was unfolding and how quickly it was being reported. Going into this there was a good possibility that something like this was going to happen. I think we all, in the back of our minds, knew that there was a possibility of something like this happening. But you hope for the best. If anything, it should serve as a reminder how important it is that we follow these health and safety protocols.”
When baseball chose to play into a pandemic, the second-worst consequence — an outbreak within a clubhouse — was inevitable. When the inevitable came, four days in, three games in for most, so did the possibility for the very worst consequence, that being an outbreak in more than one clubhouse. The Washington Nationals, supposed to be the next team into Miami, determined they wanted nothing to do with Marlins Park or the Marlins (or, possibly, Miami or Florida.) They surely would not be alone, regardless of the reason a dozen or so Marlins players became afflicted.
“We didn’t take an actual vote or tally or anything, but there were definitely discussions of everyone’s concerns with playing the Marlins,” Davis said. “Obviously being in Miami for a night, we were a little concerned about that, but if anything it just reiterated how important it is to follow these safety protocols, these guidelines that have been laid out for us. I think once guys understood the situation, the gravity of everything, how really this can affect so many people so quickly because of the way it spreads, I think it was a good reminder that we’re going to have to do a lot of things by the book, so to speak, to make sure that we get through as many games as possible.”
As such, and awaiting another round or two of testing of the Phillies before the real damage can be measured, Davis said the concern for his safety and that of his family and teammates is greater today than it was two days ago.
“I think it has to be,” he said. “When something like this happens, whether your club is directly affected or not, it kind of makes everybody raise an eyebrow and make sure they’re doing everything they can, or at least I hope it would. It was going to be hard to get through this whole thing without something like this happening. … At the end of the day you can’t control what guys are doing away from the field. So, I hope it alarms everyone league wide and makes them really focus in on what they’re doing and making sure they’re doing the right thing.
“I can’t even think about bringing this thing home. My wife and I have talked about it on more than one occasion and it’s the risk that I’ve assumed. I think it’s something we both feel like it’s worth at least going out there and giving it a shot before we just call it quits.”
He smiled at the idea that three hours of baseball in a quiet stadium amid a 60-game season that might not get to 60 games, under severe protocols because pandemics don’t care what your winning percentage or batting average might be, might actually be worth the hassle of the other 21 hours. But, he said, those three hours remain special enough. So he’ll wear a mask. He’ll remind himself why. He’ll see what the day brings.
“Honestly, the baseball aspect is really what gives you kind of a release,” he said. “It gives you a little bit of a break from everything else that’s going on around you. To be around the guys, to play the game that you love, to be out on a big-league baseball field with other big leaguers and just doing what you love, it kind of takes you a little bit away from everything that’s going on around you. Even when you have hand-washing stations at the end of the dugout, trainers spraying hand sanitizer at you left and right, wearing masks. There’s enough of a break in between the white lines to really give you peace of mind and allows you to sleep a little bit better at night. At least for me. I can’t speak for the other guys. But, I feel like they’re having a pretty good time.”
When he leaves the ballpark, when he goes home, he is glad he played ball.
“I am,” he said. “I am. And I do. And I will say this, winning helps. Winning definitely helps. With all the doubt and all the uncertainty, I think there are definitely reassuring things about my day every day that help me sleep a little better at night.”
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