Giants

Giants follow Mike Yastrzemski's walk-off with social distance rules

Giants

In the biggest moments, it's easy to forget about everything else that's going on in 2020. 

Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski teed off on a fastball and leaned back to admire it. The San Diego Padres dropped their heads. Duane Kuiper's voice continued to rise as the ball sailed through the dark night. "Headed to the water ... it ... is ... outta here!" he yelled as Yastrzemski put his head down and began circling the bases after clinching a Giants win.

It all seemed like such a normal baseball walk-off -- until Yastrzemski reached the plate. That's when the Giants unveiled a walk-off celebration we haven't seen before:

"Yeah, that was weird," Yastrzemski said an hour later, smiling. 

This is how it is in MLB in 2020, and how it has to be, especially this week. The Miami Marlins didn't play Wednesday and the Philadelphia Phillies didn't either, with COVID-19 rampaging through Miami's clubhouse and causing them to take an entire week off to recover and try to regroup. The situation caused 29 other teams to double down on their efforts. 

The Giants have thus far been as successful as anyone in combating the virus while practicing and playing every day. They haven't announced a positive test result in 23 days, but the success did not lead them to ease off the gas any. They went the opposite way, holding a team meeting Wednesday in which the medical staff reiterated how important it is to be diligent. 

 

"We talked about how important it was to continue to adhere to the health and safety protocols for obvious reasons: What's going on around the country and also some of the risk that we've seen in Major League Baseball," manager Gabe Kapler said. "We just have to be really cognizant and aware and diligent in this time, and our medical staff have been leaders through this time period.

"They took on the moment today to make sure that we were right on top of things and they challenged us to do even better than we've been doing. We're tightening things up a little bit."

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This was necessary after what went on around the game the first week. Players slipped back into old habits, high-fiving and spitting and doing all the little things that have become so familiar but aren't supposed to exist during this 60-game season. Kapler said Tuesday that he understands that players get caught up in the emotion of the game, but the staff had asked them to at least follow every high-five or fist-bump with a trip to the hand sanitizer dispenser. 

It's much harder to control those emotions during a walk-off, though, particularly when you were down by three runs just a few minutes earlier. That's why the final moments of Wednesday's game had to be proud ones for the staff. 

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"To see our players, in a moment when it would have been really easy to jump all over each other, to kind of respect that was really encouraging," Kapler said. "It kind of just speaks to their character."

Yastrzemski put the protocols to the test, and he seemed a bit timid as he finished his 360-foot journey. But when he reached the plate, players were doing their best to stay apart, celebrating instead by yelling and throwing their hands straight in the air. The crowd seemed to be about half of what you would see from a normal walk-off scrum. 

"I didn't know what to expect," Yastrzemski said. "Obviously we're trying to do our best to stay safe and to avoid as much contact as possible. Sometimes in that situation you just follow the lead and everybody was doing the right thing so we just jumped around, I guess."

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