Drayer: Mariners adapting to ‘new normal’ as practices begin in Seattle
Summer Camp Day 1. If you let your mind erase everything since the Mariners were last on a baseball field together 112 days ago for a few minutes it felt like any afternoon pregame at T-Mobile Park.
As the music played over the ballpark sound system and the big board was in full effect, ballplayers stretched and played catch in their home white pants and blue pullovers. Catchers did popup drills behind home plate, and Yusei Kikuchi threw what looked like a full go bullpen.
A closer look and you saw the masks on coaches and some players as they awaited to begin their activities. You also saw Mariners emerge from the visiting dugout. Pitchers headed across the street to Century Link Field to play catch and run PFP.
When the workout was completed, a cleaning crew went about the business of sanitizing the dugout and rails for the next group as players headed up the steps of the lower bowl in uniform with paper bags in hand for their pregame meal. Meals now are of the boxed variety to be consumed in the concourse distanced appropriately from their teammates.
This was the part that the limited amount of media who were in attendance and confined to the press box could see. The changes the ballplayers encountered began well before they took the field for stretch. The clubhouse has been changed with places to hang out eliminated and half the group housed elsewhere. Getting into the park was a chore as players and coaches had to wait to get through screening. For those that have been here before, nothing was routine, but under the circumstances, that is to be expected. Mariners manager Scott Servais reinforced that message to his team in meetings held in the stands.
“It’s going to be uncomfortable,” he said, relaying that his routine was disrupted by a 15 minute wait in his car at the temperature check entering the compound. “You have to be OK with the new normal. You have got to accept it, you have got to own it going in and it gives you a chance, a better mindset, to be able to handle it as you get frustrated. It’s a slow down, but we have got to do the right thing. That is the new normal.”
Entering the ballpark and attempting to go through a work day under the necessary protocols was no doubt different and uncomfortable at times, but perhaps when the sound of bat hitting ball began to echo throughout the building when batting practice began with the roof closed, things began to feel a little bit more normal.
At the end of the day, it is still baseball and whatever inconveniences the players are facing are surely worth the opportunity to be out of their homes and playing again. If it wasn’t, they wouldn’t be here.
“I’m a competitor,” said Mariners pitcher Marco Gonzales when asked why he chose to play. “Every day I spend time whether its working out, throwing, making the sacrifices to put my body on the line to go out and do the things that I love to do. It’s for a lot of the people who supported and made sacrifices as well for me. It’s just in my nature to want to compete. I think there’s reasons as far as the pandemic goes and the protocol goes to make excuses but for me personally I just wanted to go out and compete. I feel like that’s my job.”
The goal now is to stay on the field and good news came from the first set of tests from MLB’s Mandatory Intake Program came in with the total number of positive tests 38 which accounts for 1.2 percent of 3,185 tests processed.
— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) July 3, 2020
“We have very, very strong messaging to our players and staff about how serious we have to take the protocols,” Servais said before the first workout. “We don’t want to be the team that goes down or be the player or coach that has brought something in. Not just adhering to the protocol here
but what goes on away from the ballpark. We have got to really pay close attention to it and take it seriously.”
It’s certainly impossible to ignore at the field and to that end, first baseman Evan White said they are all still getting used to the masks and distancing. That discipline will be attacked like the baseball skills.
“It’s going to be continuous reps with that I guess,” he said. “I think it’s on us to hold each accountable as well. It’s going to take some time. Guys aren’t going to go out an purposely forget their masks and be closer but it’s something you are so used to for years being able to interact like that but it’s just being able to hold each other accountable and get adjusted to the new normal.”