When 58 players and eight employees tested positive for COVID-19 when spring training resumed last July, Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain kept showing up to work. When testing delays caused some teams to cancel training, when Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez revealed that the virus had inflamed his heart, when an outbreak brought down 20 members of the Marlins organization, Cain came out. to field.
But then the Cardinals came to Milwaukee, and six members of the St. Louis organization tested positive, and Cain, 34, decided he didn’t want to get involved.
“It was stressful,” he said. Y. Her oldest son, Cameron, age six, has severe asthma; Cain was concerned that he might bring the plague home. And he honestly thought he was only a few weeks ahead of everyone else: “I didn’t think we could get through [the season], “he said. Then, on August 1, he became one of 18 players to opt out of the 2020 MLB season.
The Cardinals outbreak eventually infected 18 people, scarred the team for 16 days and, manager Mike Shildt said, resulted in “some visits to the [emergency room]. “But MLB kept playing, and by adjusting its protocols, the league did end its season.
(In a way, his final moments embodied the entire campaign: the enduring fan image was that of Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, who half an hour earlier had become World Series champion and an hour before that threw a positive COVID test, milling about the field without a mask.)
Now baseball is back and so is Cain. Came to spring training this week. His family will join him once he is established. MLB has offered players the same arrangement this year: Anyone deemed high-risk can opt out of pay, anyone who isn’t deemed high-risk can opt out and lose pay. So far no one has.
Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, now 36, opted out last June, citing his newborn son, Henry, and his mother, Cheryl, who has multiple sclerosis. But he reported to spring training this week with the rest of the team. “A lot of people have asked me, well, not much has changed, but I think that’s a bit wrong,” he said. “I think many things have changed. We know a lot more about the whole situation everyone is in now. “
The virus has killed nearly half a million Americans and inflicted unknown damage even to those who have survived it. But cases are decreasing as more people get the vaccine. Players are optimistic the numbers will continue to improve, and they are optimistic, they say, that the league is better positioned to keep them safe this year.
Washington right-hander Joe Ross, 27, retired the same day as Zimmerman. Both her parents and her sister, Frankie, are medical professionals and were impressed by the severity of the virus. His brother, Tyson, 33, a right-hander who had recently been released by the Giants, also opted out. Joe said the league’s prolonged fight with the union over finances made him skeptical of the sport’s priorities.
“We were stuck for so long going back and forth about what the season’s pay was going to be like,” he said. “Maybe we lost a little information about [that] The reason we stopped playing baseball in spring training was obviously a health reason, so I think when that came back, I wished there was a more comprehensive plan on how to handle the whole situation. … I’m pretty sure everyone will have a pretty solid plan this year. “
Most of the opt-out-convert-opt-ins mentioned the league’s success completing last season. “They had those two big setbacks,” Zimmerman said, “but other than that, they did a pretty good job.” Dodgers left-hander David Price, now 35, spoke last spring about what he felt were lax standards, but said he considered returning midseason once he saw the improved policies.
“It definitely crossed my mind,” he said. “But I didn’t feel like I was in a place with my arm to go back and stay on the field.”
This year’s protocols are expected to be more stringent than last year’s; Players must be quarantined during spring training, must stay in their hotels on the road during the season, and are prohibited from gathering indoors in groups of more than 10. Some people around the game wonder how closely the players will follow. players the rules.
Fourteen of the 18 players who retired last year are 30 years old. Many of them had made enough money to be comfortable giving up a year’s pay. And they can feel the weight of their mortality. But they can also feel the weight of their career mortality. Orioles right-hander Felix Hernandez, 34, said his return was motivated in part by his desire to enter the Hall of Fame. Giants wide receiver Buster Posey, 33, is in the final guaranteed year of his contract with the only team he’s known. Cain wants his three children to form memories of seeing Dad at work.
So when did you participate again?
Cain paused. The river. “That’s a good question,” he said. “I think they just assumed. They didn’t really ask me if I would return or not. ” He’s just started getting emails from the team about when to report to camp. He had also assumed that he would return. So he packed his bags and headed south, to see if the league can get through this season too.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.