SARASOTA, Florida—The strange and scary new world of Major League Baseball is upon us. Hopefully, it won’t be for long.
On Tuesday, MLB joined the NHL, NBA and Major League Soccer in closing clubhouses to the media because of concern about the spread of the coronavirus.
Instead of the customary hour-long media access, players who were requested were brought to tables outside the media workroom and interviews proceeded from at least six feet away, sometimes awkwardly, as players and media members felt their way through the temporary rules.
“I think guys are still trying to figure it out,” Chris Davis said. Davis is the Orioles’ player representative, and MLB announced the rules early Monday night, the only open date on the team’s spring schedule.
“We had the announcement several days ago that there’s going to be hand sanitizer everywhere, even more so than there already was, to make sure to practice personal hygiene to the fullest,” Davis said.
On Sunday, signs were posted around Ed Smith Stadium, telling fans that because of the current environment players wouldn’t be signing autographs.
“Interaction with the fans, the way we’ve been going about that, once the game starts, just taking a ball out there and tossing them a ball instead of going over there and mingling and shaking hands and doing all that stuff,” Davis said.
“It’s unusual. Its definitely something we’re not accustomed to, but I guess if MLB sees it necessary for the time being, we’ll abide.”
In lieu of autographs, it was suggested that players toss balls instead.
“I think that was an idea they presented a few days ago when we started talking about interaction with the fans and making sure that you’re not coughing on anybody or sharing germs,” Davis said. “You don’t want to exclude any fans or neglect them. We basically sign a ball and take it out there with us and toss it to them. Hopefully, the guys in our clubhouse are washing their hands.”
Davis said talk of the pandemic hasn’t dominated the Orioles’ clubhouse. “We have so much on our plate on a daily basis to focus and to think about. It’s on every news channel. We see the headlines. We know what’s being talked about in the community and in the general public. For us, I think it’s more of us doing everything we can to be proactive and keep ourselves and our fans in a safe environment.”
Because his wife, Jill, is a nurse, Davis is aware of health issues. When he was asked about the pandemic, he said: “I definitely don’t like that term, but you can’t let it run how you live. You can be cautious, take certain measures to make sure that you’re protected, but at the same time, you have to live your life.”
He’s heard nothing about spring training games being canceled or the start of the regular season delayed.
“I think that they’re going to do everything they can to protect the players as well as the fans, but I hope it doesn’t turn into us missing games or pushing scheduled games back.”
Davis is the only member of the Orioles who was in the game played in front of no fans after the disturbances in Baltimore on April 29, 2015 and doesn’t want to see a repeat
“We don’t even want to go down that road again,” Davis said. “Hopefully, it doesn’t become more of an issue that it has been.
“We have a job to do. We have a responsibility, not only to our fans, but to our organization to go out there and do our job. We’ve been faced with a lot of challenges in the past, especially since I’ve been here, and I think the general focus of our clubhouse is to go out there and continue to do your job, do everything that you can to make sure you’re protecting yourself and your family and the guys around you. At the end of the day, we’ve still got a job to do.”