Sugar Land Skeeters set to Embark on Grand Social Experiment in the Name of Playing Baseball in a Pandemic

After delaying the start of their four-team summer league by a week, the Sugar Land Skeeters, of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB), remain committed to welcoming fans to the Ballpark and kicking off the league on July 10, 2020.

It should be noted that the COVID-19 virus spike that led to the one-week delay in the league start is even steeper than it was on July 3. The virus did not dissipate in the Texas heat given an extra seven days. Additionally, the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, issued an executive order mandating that masks must be worn in public, while also admitting that perhaps the state reopened too soon, and that it was a mistake to allow bars to reopen.

Furthermore, the league will be starting up before any additional spike in cases brought about by July 4th gatherings has been fully accounted for.

After delaying the start of their four-team summer league by a week, the Sugar Land Skeeters remain committed to welcoming fans to the Ballpark and kicking off the league on July 10, 2020 despite rises cases of COVID-19.
Photo R. Anderson

So, with a virus raging out of control within the community, the four-team league comprised of the Sugar Land Skeeters (Managed by Pete Incaviglia), Team Texas (Managed by Roger and Koby Clemens), the Sugar Land Lightning Sloths (Managed by Greg Swindell), and the Eastern Reyes del Tigre (Managed by Dave Eiland) are set to play ball in the middle of a global pandemic.

From a purely scientific data collecting standpoint, the league has the potential to provide great insight into whether one can play baseball with fans in the stands in a COVID-19 hot spot, and not have a majority of people who attend the games get sick. It is likely to also provide insight into how one can eat popcorn and nachos while wearing a mask.

From a purely human perspective, it seems grossly irresponsible to move ahead with the league given the current climate in the state with health systems tasked to the near breaking point trying to care for people getting sick. Creating events with thousands of people potentially in attendance just does not seem prudent.

Even though players will be tested for COVID-19 at least once a week, fans will have to pass a temperature check at the gate before being allowed in, that does not stop people from potentially infecting people on the field, and while they wait for the gates to open.

Major League Baseball (MLB), which is dealing with players testing positive before the season has even begun, is likely to take notice to see what kinds of things will happen in the Skeeters League. MLB still plans a return at the end of July for their 60-games in 66 days mini season, despite an inability to test all players before opening some training sites.

I am not a fortune teller, although I have eaten a lot of fortune cookies. With that in mind, I am going to go out on a limb here and say that people are going to get sick as a result of the Skeeters league.

I am also going to crawl further out on the limb and say that if MLB moves forward with their season, many players are going to get sick. Some players may see their careers cut short due to COVID-19 complications.

By inviting fans to see baseball in the middle of a pandemic the Sugar Land Skeeters are hoping the the oidds are forever in their favor as they tempt fate in a social experiment that MLB and other leagues are likely to pay very close attention to as they try to stage their return to action.
Photo R. Anderson

The risk of catching the virus, as well as complications causing problems down the line, has been cited by several high-profile players who have decided to sit out the 2020 MLB season. The risk trade of playing baseball, versus staying home do not come out with a value that they are willing to live with by playing ball.

Of course, the counter argument to that is that people are going to get sick anyway. So, why not have a little fun and see some baseball if we are all doomed to catch the disease? The so called, “might as well just live with it” narrative is gaining steam among certain population groups.

The two sides entrenched in the COVID-19 battle have been reminding me a lot lately of the story of the two frogs and the bucket of milk. For those of you who may not have heard that story, or for those needed a refresher the fable goes as so:

Two young frogs fell into a bucket of milk. Both tried to jump to freedom, but the sides of the bucket were steep and no foundation was to be had on the surface of the liquid.

Seeing little chance of escape, the first frog soon despaired and stopped jumping. After a short while, he sank to the bottom of the bucket and drowned.

The second frog also saw no likelihood of success, but he never stopped trying. Even though each jump seemed to reach the same inadequate height, he kept on struggling. Eventually, his persistent efforts churned some milk into butter. From the now hardened surface of the milk, he managed to leap out of the bucket.

In many ways, people’s response to COVID-19 is similar to that of the two frogs. On one hand, you have the people who are going to do whatever they want since they think that the virus is going to get them anyway. Worse, they think that they are immune to catching the virus. More deadly are the people who have been programed to think that the virus is a hoax.

The two sides entrenched in the COVID-19 battle remind me of the story of the two frogs and the bucket of milk.
Photo R. Anderson

The other camp of frogs sees that the virus is out there, and they know that there is a chance that they might get it. However, they are going to do everything they can to avoid getting it. This includes social distancing, wearing masks, and you know avoiding large gatherings like indoor conventions, and even outdoor baseball games.

Based on the number of COVID-19 cases in America, where over 131,000 people have died, it seems like we have more of the go out and do whatever you want frogs, compared to other countries who seem to have more frogs looking out for each other.

In many ways, it would have been fitting for one of the teams in the Sugar Land Skeeters league to be nicknamed the Frogs, although I will admit that I totally want a Lightning Sloth shirt.

Therein lies the rub, in almost any other year I would be stoked at the idea of a summer baseball league with double headers every weekend, and four teams battling for a title that the winner never has to defend. I would be the first one in line when the gates opened and I would soak up the sun and eat my weight in hot dogs.

There are also some great promotional items being offered at the games that, in any other year, I would make a bee line to get. Hello, Lightning Sloth Rally Sloth Claws.

But this isn’t any other year, and no matter how much we want to wish the COVID-19 virus away, the simple fact is that it is not going away until there is a vaccine. Those are the hard facts.

And, no matter how much I want to see live baseball in a Ballpark, eat a hot dog, drink Dr Pepper, and wear foam sloth fingers, I just cannot justify doing those activities based on all of the science I have heard about how the virus works.

While my opinion has been stated many times, and in many ways, that I would prefer to see baseball at all levels return next year, instead of putting people at risk, I do not have anything against the people who do choose to go to the Ballpark this year. I will just not be one of them.

I just hope that their decision to gather together does not cause the spread of the virus to increase to the point that in a Kevin Bacon Seven Degrees of COVID-19 separation that I, or the people I care about, become infected because someone got tired of social distancing and wanted to watch baseball in a Ballpark, or have a barbecue with friends, or any of the other virus spreading activities that we are not supposed to be engaged in right now.

So, I choose not to go watch live baseball in a Ballpark this year because I am taking care of my health, and looking out for the health of others.

We are all those frogs in the pail of milk, and we can decide which frog we want to be. As for me, I am choosing to make butter out of this situation.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about milk and butter has me craving some Kraft Dinner.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

Redskins and Indians Facing Renewed Calls to Change Their Team Names

As the summer of COVID-19 and social change rolls on with no end in sight, there are renewed calls for professional sports teams to take a hard look at nicknames that are deemed offensive to Native American populations.

Team names like Braves, Chiefs, Indians and Redskins have long been considered offensive to some Native Americans. The origin of the team names in many cases were first set up in the early parts of the 20th Century as part of imperialist nostalgia, and the myth of the vanishing race. In both instances, the belief being that the best way to honor the nostalgia of the vanquished was by using names and imagery to remind people of them.

Of course, the problem with hanging one’s nickname hat on imperialist nostalgia, and the myth of the vanishing race, when it comes to Native American terms, is that the Native American populations are very much still among us. They remain despite efforts throughout American history to wipe them out, or relegate them to out of sight, and out of mind reservations. So, the use of a population as a mascot becomes problematic when one tries to adhere to the “all men (and women) are created equal” wording of the founding fathers.

After years of trying to get the courts to force the Washington Redskins to change their nickname, it appears that the court of public opinion will give Native American groups the victory they have long sought as the team faces growing financial pressure to change their name .
Photo R. Anderson

The efforts to remove Native American nicknames and imagery from professional sports pop up about every five years or so.

Each time the issue arises, it results in the teams providing survey results that show that the majority of people like the names just the way they are. The courts tend to side with the teams over the lawsuits brought by Native American plaintiffs, and life as the teams know it goes on.

In fact, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder famously told a reporter from USA Today back in 2013 that he would “NEVER” change the name of the team that he grew up rooting for, and became owner of. The full quote by Snyder being, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”

While Snyder remained steadfast, the Cleveland Indians on the other hand, made some strides by removing the “Chief Wahoo” logo from their uniforms in 2019. The Chief Wahoo logo had long been considered a racial stereotype by many Native American groups.

While the removal of Chief Wahoo was considered a positive, albeit long overdue step, fast forward to 2020, and the Redskins and Indians have agreed to take a look at going a step further and changing their nicknames.

So why the change of heart? The company that pays millions of dollars a year for the naming right on the stadium where the Redskins play, FedEx, sent a letter telling the team that they needed to change the name and viola a committee was formed. Several people who own minority stakes in the Redskins have also said that they want to sell their shares in the team in what could be considered “a distancing themselves from an unpopular situation” scenario.

While one always wants to think that corporate decisions to right societal wrongs are driven by wanting to get on the right side of history, the sad truth is that in many cases the only way to drive change is to threaten the bank accounts of team owners.

The Chief Wahoo logo used by the Cleveland Indians has long been considered a racial stereotype by many Native American groups. The team removed the logo from their uniforms in 2019.
Photo R. Anderson

In Washington’s case, the threat of losing millions of dollars a year in revenue turned the owner’s “we will NEVER change the name, end of story period,” to “we are looking into it and have formed a committee to explore potential name changes.”

The District of Columbia has also said that they will not consider allowing the Redskins to move their operations from Virginia to D.C without changing their name.

Now before we go any further, and in the spirit of full disclosure, it should be noted that I was born in the same city as Dan Snyder, and I grew up as a Washington Redskins fan. I have bled burgundy and gold for as long as I can remember. I have cheered for the Redskins during seasons of feast, as well as seasons of famine.

In fact, I once led an entire elementary school in the singing of “Hail to the Redskins” using a homemade megaphone during a pre-Super Bowl rally in the school auditorium.

To take my fandom even further, I even still use the same Redskins key chain that was given to me by my seventh grade science teacher, Mr. Hall.

Back in 2013, I pointed out that there were Native American schools who used Redskins as their team nickname. I also noted that for all of the people who find the team name offensive, there are just as many, if not more who find the team name a part of childhood memories and do not see any racial overtones associated with it. Therefore, any change in team name needs to both honor the storied history of the franchise on the field, as well as ensuring that it offends as few people as possible.

I grew up as a Washington Redskins fan. I have bled burgundy and gold for as long as I can remember. The pending name change of the team is definitely bittersweet.
Photo R. Anderson

Seven years later, there is still no perfect solution that will make everybody happy. But, unlike in the past, it appears more likely that the first football team that I followed is headed for a Prince style name change along with the Cleveland Indians.

Of course, Washington D.C. is no stranger to having people call for names of their franchises to be changed. When I lived in Maryland, I followed the Washington Bullets. Shortly after moving to Florida people were up in arms about such a violent name for a franchise so the Washington Bullets became the Washington Wizards.

I say this not to try to compare the use of the term “bullets” with terms that are considered racial slurs by certain populations. Instead, I state it to point out that there are examples of teams changing their names and the world didn’t stop spinning.

The recent social justice movement is exposing deep scars and tears in the fabric of the nation. There were many incidents of injustice from the time that settlers from Europe first came to the New World. We are not going to fix those issues overnight, and we cannot completely erase the past by renaming everything and removing statues of things we find offensive.

Tearing down statues of Christopher Columbus, and dumping them into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, does not solve anything long term. It only serves to enrage a base that sees such actions as vandalism instead of activism.

It is common in many countries during a regime change that all statues and symbols of the past leadership are torn down. That can be a short-sighted approach to things and does not really solve the core issues.

Other countries have moved statues and monuments of their past into closed areas where the proper perspective of the history of the events can be explained from both sides. These monument gardens preserve the past, while also giving new insight into why things have changed.

The past, both good and bad, is what brought us to this very moment and made the country what it is, warts and all. In our efforts to right the ship we need to ensure that we do not over correct to the point that in another 50-years the ship has to be turned back in another direction through a modified form of imperialist nostalgia.

While we do not need to hold things in the high regard that they may have once been held, we need to ensure that history is remembered so that it can be learned from, in order that the more shameful parts of history are not repeated.

Historical course changing moments do not come around every day. So, it is up to people on all sides of the issue to ensure that we get this right whether that be renaming sports teams, or ensuring that people are free to walk down the street without having to look over their shoulder, or think they will be harassed because of the way they look or talk.

As a society we also need to ensure that the Native American populations receive the same access to quality health care as the rest of society. This is especially true during the global COVID-19 pandemic where Native American populations have been hit especially hard.

The Washington Redskins turn 88-years-old this week. By the time they turn 89-years-old, it is highly likely that they will go by a different name.

Part of me can see that it is time for a change. The rest of me will mourn the loss of childhood memories now tainted by the understanding that a simple team nickname I wore proudly and cheered even louder for, is now considered by some to be a symbol of hate to be removed from the public space in the name of racial equality.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am suddenly reminded of a Robert Frost poem.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

 

Americans to Celebrate Independence in the Midst of COVID-19 Pandemic

Oh, say can you see what day it is?

Days have held little meaning during the global COVID-19 pandemic where cases of infection in America rise like a purple mountain majesty above the fruited plains. One day can just roll into the next like a mighty wave crashing on a sandy shore.

Tomorrow will be like many of the previous days where the number of people infected with COVID-19 will reach historic levels. Tomorrow is also the Fourth of July, which is a day set aside to celebrate America’s independence from the occupying British forces.

With a roaring declaration on July 4, 1776 proclaiming independence, the American founding fathers set in motion many of the freedoms and truths that we hold self-evident to this very day.

That independence from British rule established principles regarding life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Of course, it is self-evident to many people that the amount of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness afforded to Americans often is dependent on the color of one’s skin, and is not in keeping with the stance that all men are created equal.

Each year on July 4th the skies over America are filled with fireworks in celebration of independence.
Photo R. Anderson

The United States is fighting battles on many fronts as we prepare to celebrate the 244th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

There is a COVID-19 pandemic that has killed over 129,000 Americans, as well as calls for social justice and reform as society seeks to get closer to reaching that all men and women are created equal mantra.

There are certain times in the course of human events that will be looked back upon as tipping points within history. The key is to make sure that the tipping point improves the lives of all concerned and is not a tipping point back to ideals of hatred, and exclusion.

It is ironic then that on the weekend that Americans celebrate declaring their independence from British rule, that the British government would declare their independence from visitors from the United States. The action was taken based on the uncontrolled collision of a wildfire and a dumpster fire that has become the American response to COVID-19.

Great Brittan joined the European Union in adding the United States to their lists of banned countries to receive travelers from. The border between the United States and fellow former British colony Canada is also closed to all but essential travel.

Let that sink in for a minute. The cases of COVID-19 are so out of control that some of our biggest allies are saying, “you know what America, we really don’t want to see you anymore. I mean I could lie and say that it is not you, it is me, but who are we kidding? It is totally you.”

It can be jarring to think that the American freedom of traveling anywhere we want, and talking extra loudly to locals has been taken away. I mean everyone knows that talking really loud removes all language barriers, right? (Just to be clear, talking loudly does not remove all language barriers and really just makes you look like a tourist.)

In years past, I would spend July 4th watching baseball and fireworks. This year thanks to COVID-19 I will likely do neither activity.
Photo R. Anderson

In years past, I would spend July 4th watching baseball and fireworks. This year I will likely do neither activity.

Despite the best efforts of Major League Baseball to announce their presence with authority by returning to action on July 4th weekend, that return has been pushed back to no earlier than the end of July. Additionally, any fireworks shows that are being done responsibly, will be done without people in attendance.

While COVID-19 has cancelled many typical July 4th traditions, one all-American tradition of gluttonous excess has managed to plow ahead like an endless all you can eat buffet. I am of course talking about the Nathan’s Famous July Fourth International Hot Dog Eating Championship held each year on Coney Island.

While COVID-19 has cancelled many typical July 4th traditions, one all-American tradition of gluttonous excess has managed to plow ahead like an endless all you can eat buffet. I am of course talking about the Nathan’s Famous July Fourth International Hot Dog Eating Championship held each year on Coney Island. Photo R. Anderson

The ESPN televised salute to binge eating will be held this year without fans cheering on the competitors. But have no fear the hot dogs and buns dipped in water will still be broadcast into living rooms around the globe.

We don’t have baseball, or in person fireworks this year, but thanks to the patron saints of ESPN we have hot dogs.

With a weekend dedicated to declaring and exercising freedom, I know there is a temptation for people to go out and party like it is 2019. You know, that year before the COVID-19 virus reached our shores and shut things down. But, the responsible thing to do is to stay home and stay safe.

The numbers of COVID-19 cases are already out of control based on people celebrating Memorial Day weekend in a non-socially distanced fashion. Doing the same for July Fourth is likely to break the health care system and lead to even more deaths and needless suffering.

That is not alarmist talk, or anti freedom talk. That is scientific fact. Of course, with less science being taught in schools, the value of science seems to be floundering among certain population segments. For the record, the world is round not flat, and vaccines prevent diseases and are not part of some global conspiracy.

While we are stating facts, it should be noted that the founding fathers, like all men and women before and after them, were not perfect. They had their faults, and they made mistakes in judgement from time to time. But they gave us a foundation to build on as we continue this great experiment in democracy.

Now is the time to buckle down, and show that because we value the freedoms that we have, we are willing to sacrifice some comfort for the greater good.

Were it not for the Founding Fathers declaring independence from British rule so long ago, we would likely drink way more hot tea and enjoy sports such as cricket instead of the good old American Pastime of baseball. Photo R. Anderson

If the Revolutionary War had not been fought and won by George Washington’s Continental Army, it could be argued that there would be worse things than being citizens of a British colony.

I enjoy British food and television programs. I love to visit Canada. So, it is possible that it would not be that bad to be British had the Revolutionary War turned out differently.

But fast forward to the middle of the 20th Century, and consider the role that the greatest generation played in defeating the Nazis and the fascists in World War II, and you can see how sacrificing for the greater good is the right thing to do.

If members of the Greatest Generation refused to do their part, the world would likely look entirely different right now.

While no one is asking anyone to go out and build tanks, wearing a mask and socially distancing is just as important of an act of sacrifice as the ones demonstrated by the very generation of people who are now dying at alarming rates from COVID-19.

Freedom and independence are not a free pass to infringe on the rights of others. Wearing a mask to protect others does not make someone less free.

As a society we need to get past this politicization of COVID-19, and all of the other issues that are dividing us as a country, and once again become that one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

That means caring equally for the people who look different from us, and yes even caring for the people who vote differently from us.

COVID-19 is not asking people who they voted for before deciding who it infects. Additionally, who someone wants to vote for should not be driving how they respond to protecting themselves from the virus.

For those needing a refresher the entirety of the Declaration of Independence can be read here compliments of the National Archives.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Nathan’s hotdogs to eat.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

 

Sugar Land Skeeters Delay Start of Summer League as MiLB Cancels Season

A couple of weeks ago, the Sugar Land Skeeters, of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB), announced their intention to form a four-team professional baseball league at Constellation Field, beginning July 3 and running through Aug. 23.

On June 30, the team announced that they were delaying the start of the league by a week to July 10. The delay comes as cases of COVID-19 soar to new heights in Texas leading to serious questions about whether the start will be pushed back again when July 10 rolls around.

To be clear, in lieu of a miracle, it is highly unlikely that the state of COVID-19 in Texas will be better in a week. In fact, if the spike in cases that followed Memorial Day is any indication, displays of patriotism and group gatherings for the July 4th Weekend are likely to send COVID-19 cases soaring like a roman candle reaching for the heavens.

I get that the Skeeters want to have their league succeed. I want their league to succeed as well. But the outlook is not too favorable for that to happen in the current COVID-19 climate.

The Sugar Land Skeeters, of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB), recently announced their intention to form a four-team professional baseball league at Constellation Field, beginning July 3 and running through Aug. 23.
Photo R. Anderson

The same day that the Skeeters announced the seven-day season slippage, Minor League Baseball (MiLB) made the announcement many people already knew was coming, and said that there would be no MiLB season this year.

As noted many times before, MiLB is my absolute favorite form of baseball, and the fact that the season has been cancelled makes me truly sick to my stomach because of all of the employees who will get laid off, as well as knowing that many of the players and some of the teams may not be around when the 2021 season rolls around next April.

There is always high turnover in any MiLB season as some players move up, and others just quietly retire having never reached the pinnacle of playing in the Show. This year the normal ebb and flow of player movement has a new element called contraction.

In November 2019, before the world was gripped by a global pandemic, MLB announced that it wanted to eliminate around 42 minor league affiliates and keep about 120 affiliates tied to 30 MLB clubs, or roughly four MILB teams per MLB club, as a cost savings measure. The COVID-19 pandemic just sped that process along and meant that some Ballparks would not get a farewell season.

Of course, MLB said a few years back that they wanted to get rid of a few teams and placed the Expos and the Twins on the chopping block. Although the Expos left Montreal and became the Nationals, the last time I checked we still have 30 MLB franchises.

Congressional leaders are also likely to weigh in on any plan that would take baseball away from their constituents.

So, I am cautiously optimistic that MLB will back off of their plan to reduce the ranks of MiLB, but something tells me they will keep their foot on the gas.

From a big picture MLB perspective, I understand that they want to streamline the operation to have fewer players and better facilities across the board in the farm system of the future. In recent years, MLB clubs even started owning their farm teams as a means to control costs from Rookie ball to MLB. As such, the MiLB owners were already getting pushed aside in many markets.

I know that baseball is a business. One need only listen to MLB owners complain about lost revenue during the 2020 season to know where many of their heads are at. But, for many of the smaller communities that are served by MiLB teams, baseball is an extension of the community and a part of the lifeblood that pumps from generation to generation.

The last MiLB game in Orlando was played in 2003 and it left a void for baseball fans in the region. Granted, the loss of a MiLB team in Orlando is not going to have the same effect as the loss of a team in a smaller community. While they currently do not have professional baseball, Orlando has college sports at the University of Central Florida, the Orlando Magic, the Orlando Solar Bears, Orlando City, and Orlando Pride. Of course, if Pat Williams has his way Orlando will become an MLB city someday.

Contrast the sport heavy balance sheet of Orlando with say Billings, Montana. Billings, and many other cities where MiLB is played, do not have other professional sports nearby. So, a night at the Ballpark is literally the only game in town when it comes to professional sports in many markets. Besides offering entertainment for fans, the Ballparks offer employment for everything from ticket takers to ushers.

If the teams go away, the jobs will go away as well.

If MLB really does go through with their plan of reducing the ranks of MiLB as a way to save a buck, I really hope that non-affiliated baseball leagues like the ALPB and others can fill the void and keep baseball in the towns affected by the loss of their MiLB franchise.

I know there are people who will stand up and shout that independent baseball is not the same as affiliated baseball. I will not argue that point, other than to say that if I had a choice between having an Independent League team in my town, or no baseball team in my town, I am going to go with having the Independent League team every time.

The baseball fan in me wants to see the Sugar Land Skeeters summer league succeed. However, as much as I love Swatson, the reporter in me cannot justify putting fans and players at risk of catching COVID-19 just to play ball.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course, the reality is that some owners may not have the resources to run an Independent baseball team without the support that went along with being affiliated with MLB.

That is why the baseball fan in me wants to see the Skeeters summer league succeed so that the players and staff don’t have to worry about losing their jobs. Of course, when I put on my reporter hat, I still cannot justify putting fans and players at risk of catching COVID-19 just to play ball.

MLB is still planning a return at the end of July for their 60-games in 66 days mini season, but many more players each day are choosing to opt out of the season.

It is a tough calculus that I really hope we are not faced with again once the COVID-19 pandemic is finally defeated thanks to either a vaccine, or effective therapeutics, that allow the world to fully reopen again.

When that day of reopening does occur, I will be one of the first people in line at the Ballpark to see the game I love played once more. Sadly, the residents of up to 42 communities may not be as lucky.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to celebrate Bobby Bonilla Day.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

 

Ryan Zimmerman to opt Out of Shortened MLB Season Amid Global COVID-19 Pandemic

Fresh off of earning a World Series ring with the Washington Nationals, Ryan Zimmerman, has said, thanks, but no thanks, to the idea of playing baseball during the 2020 MLB season of COVID-19 induced uncertainty.

In making his announcement Zimmerman said, “After a great deal of thought and given my family circumstances – three young children, including a newborn, and a mother at high risk – I have decided not to participate in the 2020 season. I cannot speak for anyone else, but given the unusual nature of the season, this is the best decision for me and my family.”

Zimmerman’s Nats teammate, pitcher Joe Ross, also announced that he will be opting out this year.

Fresh off of earning a World Series ring with the Washington Nationals, Ryan Zimmerman, has said, thanks, but no thanks, to the idea of playing baseball during the 2020 MLB season of COVID-19 induced uncertainty.
Photo R. Anderson

On the same day that Zimmerman and Ross, opted out, the Minnesota Twins announced that two of their coaches, Bob McClure and Bill Evers, would be excused for the 2020 season based on concerns about their health and the risks that playing baseball in the middle of a global pandemic could expose them to.

I applaud Zimmerman, Ross and the Twins for realizing that there is more at stake this year than trying to squeeze in 60 baseball game in 66 days. I have said it before, and I will say it again, the idea that the MLB is going forward with a plan to play baseball in the middle of a global health crisis is asinine.

With the number of cases of COVID-19 rising from coast to coast on a daily basis, the last thing we need is to have people traveling from place to place potentially spreading the virus.

I totally get that there are millions, if not billions, of dollars at stake if the MLB does not play ball this year. But, by them deciding to go forward with this plan they are potentially putting lives at stake just to stage a made for TV event.

Of course, with owners like Jim Crane, whose Houston Astros are literally located in one of the hottest of COVID-19 hot spots at the moment, saying that they need to sell beer and nachos to fans in order to make money, one can clearly see where the priorities sit for some people.

Nearly a third of the MLB teams are located in some of the areas that are experiencing hospital bed shortages, increased COVID-19 positivity rates, and rollbacks on business openings as they try to wrangle the COVID-19 monster that is spreading with reckless abandon like a water-soaked Gremlin.

At the time of this writing, the Toronto Blue Jays have not received permission to train and host games in their home Ballpark based on concerns of hosting 30 home games with teams from other areas that are not following the 14-day quarantine requirements for travel from the United States to Canada. In the event that games in Canada cannot be played, the Blue Jays would likely host games at their Spring Training Ballpark in Dunedin, FL.

In the event that games in Canada cannot be played, the Toronto Blue Jays would likely host games at their Spring Training Ballpark in Dunedin, FL. The Blue Jays shut down their spring training facility in early June after a player exhibited COVID-19 symptoms, demonstrating the pitfalls of trying to play ball in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo R. Anderson

The number of Canadian officials needing to give the green light for the Blue Jays to play ball should stand as a glaring reminder that there is a lot at stake, and a lot of risk that is needing to be accepted, in order to play baseball.

The proponents of getting to go to baseball games, packing their churches full of shoulder to shoulder parishioners, not wearing masks, and basically doing whatever they want to do, usually roll out the First Amendment of the US Constitution and tie it all together in a pretty bow of freedom of speech, religion and expression as their get out of jail free card to do whatever they want by calling it a hat trick of protections.

As a refresher for those who may have taken Government class many years ago and have forgotten the words of the First Amendment they state that, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In Journalism school, and throughout my career, I along with many of my fellow journalists, have clung to the First Amendment freedom of the press clause like Linus clung to his blanket. In fact, one year my high school newspaper staff t-shirt had the first amendment printed on the back of it to remind us of the great freedom we had.

Of course, just because you can do something, that doesn’t mean you should do something. As Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben was fond of saying, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

As part of that responsibility, in Journalism school we were also taught that there were potential limits to free speech insofar as they interfered with the freedoms and the rights of others. In particular, we could not knowingly libel or slander someone and call it protected speech merely by waving the First Amendment in their face.

This is where the calls form elected officials, along with public health officials, for responsible social distancing and use of face coverings come in.

Sure, as a society we could kick and scream and say that it is our God given inalienable right to not social distance and not wear a mask as the rest of the world laughs at how the United States failed to contain the virus because we had too many freedoms.

But the more God like, and for that matter the more American, behavior would be to protect ourselves and others by wearing a mask. COVID-19 doesn’t care who you voted for. COVID-19 doesn’t care if you lean to the right, lean to the left, or if you stand up straight in the middle.

Without a proclamation from state or federal government officials saying that MLB cannot gather to play ball in their particular jurisdiction, they are free to do so. The question then becomes, just because they can, it doesn’t mean they should. There is also the non-uniformity related to which Ballparks can have fans, and which ones cannot.

I miss baseball, but I am perfectly content to have the 2020 Season cancelled, and wait for a return to action in the spring of 2021. One of my first stops when baseball does return next spring will be Publix Field in Lakeland, FL.
Photo R. Anderson

I am still hopeful that between now and the scheduled first pitch on July 24th, the MLB season will be cancelled. MLB could make such a bold statement by telling their fans to stay home and wear a mask, by having its players staying home and wearing masks when they go out, instead of trying to put on the farce of what will amount to a shortened A Ball season.

One of the biggest mistakes that sports fans can make, and I was certainly guilty of it at times, is to elevate the players on the field to mythical god-like levels and see them only as players, and not people. When we do this, we fail to realize that every athlete is just a person like the rest of us. Granted, a person who can throw a ball a lot harder than most of us, but still just a person.

Athletes have families, and they have pursuits beyond just playing the game. Athletes, like the rest of us are also not immune to catching COVID-19, even if they adhere to over 100 pages of MLB guidance for how to play baseball in the middle of a pandemic that has, at the time of this writing, killed over 128,000 Americans.

Ryan Zimmerman, and any other players who decide to sit out the season, know what is important, so why shouldn’t they sit out the season? Sports careers are fleeting, and the greatest trait an athlete can possess is knowing that there is a life to be lived outside of the lines.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to see what classic baseball movie the MLB Network is airing tonight.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson