As Major League Baseball begins its most crucial week yet in hopes of salvaging a 2020 season, a quiet but not insignificant gathering took place in Florida.
Some 14 Tampa Bay Rays entered Tropicana Field in pairs, stayed away from the batting cage and weight room, but nonetheless got in a workout Monday afternoon under the watchful eye of their manager — perhaps the most formal gathering of big leaguers in their home ballpark since the COVID-19 pandemic cast the season in doubt.
The group included All-Star outfielder Austin Meadows, shortstop Willy Adames and new outfielder Manuel Margot, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The players had their temperatures checked upon entry and wore masks into the stadium, but could remove them during their workout. The team improvised a number of free weights and plyometric stations for the players, who are among a group that remained in the Tampa area after their spring training site in Port Charlotte, Florida was closed more than two months ago.
“It felt good, but it was still odd,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said on a Zoom call with Tampa media, per The Athletic. “I didn’t go up and handshake anybody or give anybody a hug. When you haven’t seen someone in that long, you’re probably doing that, so that was odd.
“But we certainly respect the situation and what’s at stake. We’re going to do what we’re asked. It was a step in the right direction and it was good to see smiling faces.”
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Tuesday, MLB is expected to extend an economic proposal to players in hopes of beginning the season in early July. The sides have already reviewed a 67-page document regarding health protocols, with players expected to respond to that soon.
With a second spring training expected to commence by mid-June, some teams have opened spring facilities and home ballparks, subject to social-distancing guidelines in their areas. While an agreement on player pay and health may not be hammered out immediately, players and teams must ramp up in earnest with the anticipation that they’ll need to be ready soon.
“If those dates are actuality,” Cash told reporters, “e probably need to get going a little bit and starting some more aggressive type of routine. I think this was a really good start for a first day and a first week.”