Everything changed for baseball on March 12 when spring training was canceled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Some players stayed in Arizona or Florida, the spring training homes of their respective teams, while others were off to their home towns. Giants prospect Sean Hjelle didn't hesitate. He was on his way to Richmond, Va.
"I immediately got in my car and drove out to Richmond from Phoenix, because we had our first son born here a month ago, so I had to get out here for that," Hjelle said on the most recent episode of MiLB.com's "The Show Before The Show" podcast. "Honestly, that was kind of a blessing having spring trained get canceled because he was supposed to be born on the 2nd, I think our last day of minor league camp was the third or something like that, so it was gonna be a tight squeeze.
"Spring training being canceled was actually kind of a blessing in that area for me."
Hjelle's son, George, was born in Richmond and already is sporting Giants gear.
Richmond isn't just the birthplace of his son, it likely would have been where Hjelle played his home games this season for the Giants' Double-A affiliate. The 2018 second-round draft pick pitched his final five games of last season for the Richmond Flying Squirrels after strong showing for the Augusta Green Jackets and San Jose Giants.
As many players are finding creative ways to stay in shape during these tough times, the 6-foot-11 right-hander finds himself in a much more accommodating situation. With The Diamond right down the road, the historically tall pitcher can get his work at the Flying Squirrels' facilities.
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"I actually feel like I'm one of the lucky ones in all this," Hjelle said. "Having our Double-A team out here in Richmond, I'm able to go to that stadium and it's pretty much just me and a handful of field crew guys that are still there and maintaining the field and keeping it up to date. I can go use our weight room. I can go throw in our batting cages if I need it. I can hit in our batting cages if I feel so inclined to do so.
"I have a weight room, I have someone to throw to, I have pretty much anything I need. I feel like one of the few lucky ones."
Hjelle is ranked as the Giants' No. 9 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He went 7-9 with a 3.32 ERA between the three levels last season.
While he was expected to begin the season in Double-A again, Hjelle is seen as someone who certainly could make his MLB debut this season.