Athletics

A's walk-off celebration shows maintaining social distance proves tough

Athletics

It was a historic and weird night in baseball. In front of a crowd of zero, A’s first baseman Matt Olson hit a grand slam in walk-off fashion in the 7-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night.

Per usual, it’s a time where teammates run onto the field and celebrate in an up-close and personal way, but not during a pandemic. At least, that’s not what’s supposed to happen. 

There wasn’t any social distancing once Olson crossed the plate, and unfortunately, it’s going to be difficult to adhere to that.

“It’s going to be like that,” pitcher Mike Fiers told reporters on Saturday. “No matter if it’s in your mind, you’re going to celebrate -- we’re so happy for Olson at that point, but to really grind out those at-bats late in the game against their closer and [Hansel] Robles." 

"Those are tough at-bats. You’re just so excited to really get out of there with a W, especially with the way we played. Everyone will tell you, we didn’t play our cleanest game, so at that moment it was just about winning the game.”

 

Fiers said what Olson did was huge, and to comply so strictly to the MLB safety protocols is going to be tough.

“I don’t think everyone’s going to stay away from each other,” Fiers said.

Fiers also said he believes those around him made comments about social distancing, but at the moment that’s not what’s on their minds.

“That’s sports, man,” Fiers added. “If you love this game, it’s going to be hard, it’s going to be really tough to stay away from each other especially moments like that.”

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]
 

It lacks a sense of intimacy. A particular component of the game that these guys crave. Ask any retired athlete, one of the main reasons they did not want to walk away from their sport is the fact that they would no longer be around teammates and have that special bond you can’t duplicate. It’s a sentiment A’s reliever T.J. McFarland spoke about.

“It’s interesting when we had the walk-off last night, everyone came together and we even wanted to do it more in the clubhouse, but you can’t really do it,” McFarland said on Saturday. “So it kind of takes the intimacy out of it when we win a game like that, but we still enjoyed it.”

“You can quickly forget when you’re in a situation like that,” McFarland added. “When you’re excited, you’re reminded quickly, ‘Hey, we are in the middle of a pandemic here, let’s back away and be safe and follow the safety protocols, which we do, and I think just throughout this year we’re going to have to be cognizant of that and follow the rules.”

[RELATED: How Olson, Matt Chapman were prepared for extra-inning rule]

Adhering to social distancing was part of MLB’s safety protocols that included another routine that players are used to: Spitting. A lot of natural ways the players exist are continuously being forgotten about, but for good reason. 

Let’s just hope living in the moment doesn’t result in something much worse.