Like the rest of us, Evan Longoria spent his Sunday on the couch, watching Tom Brady take on Aaron Rodgers in the NFC Championship. But Longoria has a closer connection to the current NFL playoffs than most. He played 10 seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays and was the face of the franchise, and he still owns a sports lounge, Ducky's, in the area that's preparing to project the Super Bowl on the outside of the building.
"I'm pulling hard, man," Longoria said Wednesday on KNBR's The Mark Willard Show. "I've watched the team obviously since 2006 and they've had pretty much just down years -- we had one good year in there, but a lot of missed playoffs, so this year has been exciting."
Longoria is just a few weeks away from getting back on the field himself. The Giants are set to have pitchers and catchers report Feb. 15, but this week there were signs that another back-and-forth could be on the way between MLB and the MLBPA. The Cactus League, apparently at the urging of MLB, suggested a postponement of the spring season, but players are pushing back. Longoria pointed out that other leagues are making this work, and said there's no reason MLB can't start on time.
"There's other professional sports that are playing right now and have figured out what to do," he said. "I think baseball had last year as kind of a trial run, so to speak. It was a bootstraps effort to get a season in last year and I think as players we basically did everything we could do to make the season possible and make it happen in the way that it did. This year I think we've had too much time to prepare to really have any sort of excuse why we can't get this season off.
"As players, we've been preparing to show up and be ready for an on-time start to the spring and again do what needs to be done from a safety standpoint to make the season happen. We're looking forward to having a full season where hopefully we can have fans, too. I think that's the ultimate goal, to be able to play the game again normally."
While all that makes sense, there are still plenty of people within the game -- and within the Giants organization -- who believe another delay is coming. The COVID-19 numbers in Arizona have consistently been among the worst in the nation, with the state's rate of new positive tests ranking second only to Rhode Island over the most recent seven-day period. Per the CDC, the state ranked first over that time frame in deaths per 100,000 citizens.
There's another battle looming over the next couple of weeks, but players are eager to get going, pointing out that they've done this once before. The Giants got through 60 games without a player contracting the virus, and Longoria said players are willing to go through another season of strict restrictions on the road. But they're also hoping for a bit more normalcy, particularly when it comes to fans. The Giants are hopeful that they'll have fans at Oracle Park this season, and Longoria said on KNBR that playing without them last year was "miserable."
"It's tough. We're so used to having that adrenaline from the fans kind of push us through the season that it was a completely different environment," he said. "Getting any sort of fan base in there, any sort of fans in general in there, is a step in the right direction and I think we can again start to bring that buzz back into the stadium."