By The Associated Press
The Los Angeles Angels practice at Angels Stadium on Friday, July 3, 2020, in Anaheim, Calif.
His N-95 mask squarely in place, Mike Trout stroked line drives, streaked around the bases and caught flyballs at Angel Stadium. The sport’s biggest star then let something drop — he’s not “comfortable” in this COVID-19 environment and isn’t sure he’ll play this season.
At Citi Field, Mets two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom ran sprints by himself in shallow right field, then grabbed his personal bag of baseballs to throw off a bullpen mound. At Camden Yards, Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde watched practice from the stands behind the dugout.
“It’s weird,” Reds star Joey Votto said.
At Nationals Park, Max Scherzer limbered up with 65 pitches as the World Series champion Washington Nationals got back to work at 7:45 a.m. High in the press box, it was possible to hear players talking on the field about the virus.
No doubt, those sentiments echoed all around the majors.
Baseball tried to take another step forward Friday in a most uncertain setting, with players on the field at their empty home ballparks for the first team workouts since exhibition games ended March 12.
A few players were missing: San Diego outfielder Tommy Pham, Cleveland outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. and Texas reliever Brett Martin are among those who have tested positive for the virus.
“I’m sure they have fears and are dealing with the change, the protocol, the testing. All of that is different,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “But when we got out on the field and started working, it felt a lot like the beginning of spring training.”
It was a very strange scene in Miami.
While the team worked out on the new artificial turf, there was a long line of cars outside Marlins Park because it’s a testing site for the coronavirus, and cases have been surging in South Florida.
Major League Baseball announced 31 players and seven staff members tested positive for COVID-19 during intake for the resumption of training, a rate of 1.2%. The positive tests occurred among 19 of the 30 teams.
Opening day for the delayed, shortened 60-game season is July 23. Major League Baseball said the All-Star Game, scheduled for July 14 at Dodger Stadium, has been canceled.
At Comerica Park in Detroit, the effects of virus precautions were evident.
“There’s Xs in the dugout where we can and can’t stand. You have to come down to the field one way and back off the field another way,” Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer said. “It’s going to definitely take some getting used to, but as long as we’re playing baseball, I can follow about anything.”
Trout, the three-time AL MVP, wants to wait a bit.
The Los Angeles Angels outfielder and his wife, Jessica, are expecting the couple’s first child in August.
“Honestly, I still don’t feel that comfortable,” the 28-year-old star said.
“If I test positive, I talked to doctors and they said I couldn’t see the baby for 14 days or Jess can’t see the baby for 14 days if she’s positive, we’re going to be upset,” he said.
Mets catcher Wilson Ramos could sympathize.
“It’s hard right now to be here,” Ramos said, thinking of his wife and children in Florida. “But at the same time, I’m very happy to be here doing what we love to do.”
The Mets worked out in three separate shifts during the day. Music played softly over the stadium sound system as hitters took their cuts. Mini cones spaced well apart marked sections of grass for separated stretching and calisthenics.
Air horns blew at different intervals, a sound more familiar at a football practice. A makeshift infield was pieced together in the outfield for defensive drills.
“Everything that we can do in order to keep the guys distanced from each other,” rookie manager Luis Rojas said.
Phillies star Bryce Harper had his own crowd. His pregnant wife and their 10-month-old son accompanied him to Philadelphia.
“The last three days, understanding what we’re going to do on the field, understanding that we do have to wear masks wherever we go, those are things you have to get used to and respect the people around you … I feel safe right now,” Harper said.
In Phoenix, it was 102 degrees as the Arizona Diamondbacks held their first summer workout at steamy Chase Field, which had the roof closed but the window panels on the back wall open.
General manager Mike Hazen said there were two main reasons to keep the field open despite the high temperatures. One, it helped with the air circulation to try and avoid the virus and two, it let the team get ready for playing outdoors when the regular season begins.
Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija said he fully expects there will be fans in the seats at some point this year.
“I think we’ve seen from the owners they’re not afraid to put anyone at risk, especially if it makes them money,” he said.
Even though practice sessions are shut to the public, a few fans saw actual baseball.
The Texas Rangers held their first official workout in the new $1.2 billion Globe Life Field, under the closed retractable roof. When Rougned Odor pulled a home run into the right field seats in an intrasquad game, there was a smattering of applause.
While the session was closed to outsiders, there were still small groups of people taking tours of the new stadium, and a blood drive was being held on the concourse.
“I’m kind of expecting weird, expecting things to be different,” manager Chris Woodward said later. “I just think the whole situation is different. And that’s kind of our theme … we’ve got to stay positive and just kind of like roll with the punches, take things head on, deal with it.”
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