Baseball and COVID-19: MLB gets around the bases

Benjamin Reese

Due to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the Pandemic of COVID-19, the Major and Minor League seasons have been postponed later in the summer. April 9 would have been the opening day for Major League Baseball (MLB) this year, and its absence has brought about uncertain times for the players. While the Major League players find themselves in a profession where there is no limit on the amount of money they can make, the Minor Leaguers, even before the pandemic, were earning wages just above the poverty line. The economic impact this disease has caused has been nothing short of detrimental. These Minor league players now face dilemmas that can alter their professional and personal lives forever.

“Starting pay for minor leaguers is between $1,100 and $2,150 a month, and only during the season, which can be as short as three months.” (Gordon) One can understand how important the start of a season can be for these players. Frank Nigro, a catcher for the High Point Rockers in North Carolina, has had to adapt to the lack of play and training in his life since the beginning of the worldwide quarantine.

“It sucks, man. I don’t really know what to do with myself. Hayleigh (Franks girlfriend) can only take so much of me at home, and all I really want to do is travel and get to playing some games, you know?” Nigro said.

Mike Annone, an outfielder for the San Rafael Pacifics, has not taken kindly to the play’s halt.

“Bro, I’ve had to apply for unemployment benefits for the first time in my life. I am freaking out.” Annone said.

Some of these players are more concerned with losing the opportunity to play in front of big-league scouts, never mind the money. Those big-league teams have found their problems to endure, unfortunately. The New York Yankees, Arizona Diamond Backs, and San Francisco Giants confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their Minor League program teams. This dilemma has stifled league officials in making quick and drastic changes to the schedule. All spring training for teams has canceled, and all-league openers have been pushed back to July 2.

There have been some players that favor not playing at all this season. Kendall Small, first base for the Front Royal Cardinals in Virginia, had this to say:

“I’m a little scared, man. I have asthma, so I’m not trying to put my life on the line for a few innings of ball.”

There have been cases where the game has been brought back. Korea has begun its season without fans and players wearing masks, and Japan plans to reciprocate in the coming month. Micky Foytik, a teammate of Smalls, expressed his displeasure of playing with masks and without fans by saying:

“Hell no. There is no point. Fans make it all worth it, and I cannot breathe in those damn masks. It would ruin the game for me.”

There are mixed emotions regarding the status of baseball in the United States. Uncertainty has players, and most do not know what to do or how to cope with the monotony of life outside of a regimented athletic schedule. These players have had to find new sources of income, new hobbies, and figure out how to stay sane. For most of these guys, the game of baseball is all they have. When it takes away from them, it is as if they lost half of themselves as an individual. Sports build and sustain the character. When those athletes do not have that outlet to release that other half of themselves, mental fatigue becomes constant. Luckily for those athletes, they are not alone at this time.