Tradition was a major theme in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” Thanks to COVID-19 we may see more than a few traditions disappear in a sport built on the status quo. Granted, some traditions have been eroding for awhile, such as the use of a designated hitter in the American League, but many traditions have remained intact.
Assuming that Major League Baseball starts its season sometime this summer, here are some changes that might occur because of COVID-19, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, followed by my comments:
· Wake up. Grab the thermometer issued to every player in MLB and take your temperature. Just make sure to do it before eating, drinking or exercising. Then take it again. If it’s more than 100 degrees, self-isolate, call the team physician, and get ready to take a rapid-response COVID-19 test.
Thermometers may become the new normal for all players.
· High fives, fist bumps, and hugs would be prohibited, as would spitting, tobacco use and chewing sunflower seeds.
At least there won’t be as much of a mess to clean up in the dugout after games.
· Fielders would be “encouraged to retreat several steps away from the baserunner” between pitches.
Maybe baserunners should be required to take a lead of at least 6-feet off to ensure there’s proper social distancing. Of course, if a pitcher throws over to first to keep the runner close, that defeats the purpose of social distancing.
· First- and third-base coaches are not to approach baserunners or umpires, and players should not socialize with opponents.
This should benefit umpires. Angry managers will have to work a lot harder to kick dirt on the umpire if they have to stay at least 6 feet away.
· A ball will be thrown away after it is touched by multiple players, and throwing the ball around the infield will be discouraged.
Another tradition, throwing the ball around the horn, bites the dust.
· Players would be discouraged from showering at stadiums after games and would not be allowed to take taxis or use ride-sharing apps on the road.
If this becomes reality, it’s de ja vu all over again. Most Little League players expect to come to the ballpark dressed in uniform and remain in uniform until returning home for a shower.
· Players would be required to wear masks everywhere except on the field and during strenuous activities.
Can you imagine baseball cards with pictures of players wearing masks? Might be a fun new game – name the player behind the mask.
· There’s no lineup card exchange. They were sent via app.
Hopefully managers and umpires are tech-savvy.
· The manager is standing along the railing. He’s not allowed to be on the steps.
· Other coaches are spread out — 6 feet from one another, of course. The rest of the bench is sparsely populated.
I wonder if there will be bench police monitoring social distancing.
· When the pitcher needs some grip, he’d better not lick his fingers. He has a personal rosin bag for that.
This would have been a challenge for former pitcher Gaylord Perry, who was known for putting unknown substances on the ball that were in either in his hair or on his uniform.
· When a hitter whacks a single to left field and gets on first base, he should skip the small talk. Socializing and fraternizing are forbidden before, during, and after the game.
Some players will need a muzzle, because they love to chatter with everyone.
· Only players likely to enter the game can be in the dugout. The rest are in the stands. The closest you can sit to anyone is with four empty seats between you and two empty rows behind you.
I wonder if those players will have to pay for concessions like everyone else if they’re in the stands.
· The game ends. There’s no buffet, so the clubhouse attendant grabs you a pre-packaged meal.
This would be another major adjustment for players who are used to having their cake and eating it, too. Shucks, they might forget where they are and think they’re back in the minor leagues.