Drayer: Mariners’ reopened ST facility provides glimpse at what baseball in 2020 could look like
Everywhere but in the most important spot, the negotiation table, it feels like baseball is coming back.
Spring training facilities are opening and we are we are starting to hear about plans that are being made for baseball to return on the local level in numerous big league cities. Speaking from his home on the virtual Hutch Award ceremony Wednesday, Mariners chairman and managing partner John Stanton gave an update on the situation in Seattle.
“I am spending almost my whole time working on that issue,” he said. “I had an early call with King County government this morning, I’m talking to folks at the state later on. I believe we have put ourselves in a position where MLB created a protocol still in draft form that will allow us to specify a safe way to play. That is ultimately the most important thing, safe and healthy for all of our fans, employees and players and I think we have a protocol to do that.”
In Peoria, Ariz., where the Mariners reopened their spring training facilities earlier this week to players in the area, many of those protocols are already being enacted.
“It felt like you were getting closer,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said Thursday morning of the reopening on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant. “Once the state of Arizona gave us the ability to open the facility we saw no reason to hold it back, and when I tell you we have a volume of protocols in place to do our best to ensure our players health and safety, I am putting it mildly.”
As of Thursday morning, nine players who stayed in the Peoria area when baseball shut down had worked out at the facility. They were assigned to groups of four with two pitchers and two position players in each group and given a scheduled time to come in to work out. When they arrived at the facility, they were not allowed to enter through most doors they would usually come through in the spring, rather they were directed to enter on the minor league side and greeted at the door by a medical team ready to take their temperatures, record their information, have them sanitize their hands and give them masks that were to be worn at all times inside the building.
“It was awesome to be back,” said Mariners outfielder Jake Fraley, who has worked out both days since the reopening. “It’s very weird. There’s restrictions and stuff like that that you are obviously not used to going to the baseball field, but those little things are going to take some getting used to if you are able to get out on the baseball field.”
Different, yes, according to Fraley, but when it involves the safety of yourself and those around you, necessary.
“It’s definitely on the forefront of my mind and with I’m sure the rest of the country and world,” he said. “It’s definitely more of a concern right now. You are just trying to be as safe as you can, being very aware of what you touch. If you have to sneeze, making sure you are sneezing into your arm and not over everything that is in your surrounding area and really just being cautious and aware of the people around you.”
The players in Peoria have been able to get out onto the fields in groups of two, and Fraley was grateful to take his first fly balls since March. Getting into the weight room was in his opinion the biggest benefit to being at the complex.
“The workout side, which I think is the biggest aspect of training, everybody is obviously very hindered to that aspect because everyone is different. You have some equipment (at home) but you have to be very creative. There are some exercises you just can’t do.”
As for the safety protocols, wearing a mask indoors has become normal for Fraley, that is no problem. While we have heard players speak out against the proposal that they not spit or high five, the concern for Fraley and some other players has been with protocols that could affect their training and routines.
“Every single step and every single thing we do leading up to the first pitch, they all play important and vital roles in getting us ready for when we step in the box or a pitcher steps on the mound to get ready to go. Those are not things we do just for the heck of it,” he said. “Of course it is going to be something that needs to be very thought through and very thorough when that time comes to get back on the field and back to baseball. But in the same breath I think it is something that we need to realize that once you pass a certain threshold with it, I do think it starts to affect and hinder performance that the way guys are able to get ready for games, the way we have been for our whole lives, which is the very reason why we were able to get to the big leagues, because all of those things were the help that got us there.”
While Fraley didn’t go into specifics he most likely was referring to training room and trainer access (the current proposal limits teams to utilizing just two athletic trainers) and post-game therapies including hot and cold tubs. While there have been some reports that the MLBPA and MLB were far apart on the health and safety protocols, Ken Rosenthal has reported these issues are very solvable.
On the compensation issue, the two sides are miles apart with the clock ticking. One thing appears to be certain, however: Most want to play. Owners wouldn’t be preparing ballparks and players wouldn’t be putting in the work they have been putting in for over two months now if that wasn’t the end goal.
“I am very hopeful that we will be playing baseball in T-Mobile Park in July,” said Stanton. “I’m reluctant to say exactly when in July but we are working hard both on the national level and we are going to work with the state, county and city governments to make sure we satisfy all of their needs to give us permission to play right here at T-Mobile Park.”
A lot has to happen for Mariners baseball at T-Mobile Park this summer to materialize but the opportunity is there if both sides can work to grab it. With that opportunity there, at least for now, there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
“You look back to when this started, through March and April and May, it was pretty tough and that goes for everybody, not just in baseball,” Fraley pointed out. “Just looking at life itself, very tough times, and obviously times are still very tough, that hasn’t gotten much better but if you look at it from the aspect of where we were to where we are, I definitely think you can say there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Things are going the way they need to go now and I think it is a matter of us having that patient endurance to be able to see it through and really just trust in the good Lord that he is guiding us that way.”