Dusty Baker

Why Joe Maddon doesn’t fear coronavirus risk — and why it matters

Why Joe Maddon doesn’t fear coronavirus risk — and why it matters

Often left unsaid in all the reports and speculation about the scenarios Major League Baseball is considering in efforts to play a 2020 season is the especially high health risks that many essential personnel in the game will face, regardless of how much coronavirus testing is available by then.

That includes two former Cubs managers considered in the high-risk age range: the Angels’ Joe Maddon, 66, and the Astros’ Dusty Baker, 70.

Has Maddon worried about that risk as he makes plans for a possible season amid the global COVID-19 pandemic?

“I haven’t to this point until you just asked me,” he said with a chuckle during a conversation this week with NBC Sports Chicago.

RELATED: Last Dance: Similarities between ex-Cubs skipper Joe Maddon and Phil Jackson

Maddon, perhaps not surprisingly, seems less concerned with the risk-factor statistics than the process of being as prepared as possible to stay healthy.

“I’m on a roll right now,” he said of his health and fitness regime. “When I was in Arizona, I rode my bike for 40 consecutive days — four-zero. And I’ve been getting my rest, and I’ve been trying to stay proactive in front of everything also.

“I want to believe if I were to contract it, I’d be able to fight it off. That’s the premise I’m working from. So I don’t necessarily worry about it. I have a faith that I’m doing the right things leading into it.”

That includes a focus on daily nutrition, he said: “the supplements I’m taking, a lot of Vitamin C, a lot of zinc in my water, all the necessary seleniums. I research everything.

“I’m doing this stuff proactively to give myself the best shot that if I was impacted I’d be able to fight it off.”

He and Baker aren’t the only potential baseball personnel in the high-risk groups. Some coaches and umpires also are fall into the age range considered higher risk, along with some clubhouse personnel.

And underlying risk factors even affect some players. Cubs pitcher Brandon Morrow, for instance, has Type I diabetes, which is considered one of those factors.

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and pitcher Jon Lester are cancer survivors who underwent chemotherapy to recover early in their professional careers. Some research has suggested that’s another risk factor for more severe reaction if the virus is contracted.

Rizzo said several weeks ago he didn’t believe he was at a higher risk.

“I’m at full strength,” he said. “All my blood work — it’s not like I’m low on any levels. All my lungs and liver and everything functions like it should be functioning, as it should be functioning as a 30-year-old athlete. So I’m not worried about it.”

RELATED: Anthony Rizzo steps up to the plate to help first responders battling pandemic

He might be right. But Americans in their 20s and 30s, with no apparent underlying risks, already have died in this country from COVID-19.

The Oakland A’s on Friday announced the coronavirus death of former prospect Miguel Marte, 30.

It’s at least a reminder of how many hurdles remain to be cleared — beyond salary arrangements with players and umpires, or even testing capacity — before a season can be started.

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How Dusty Baker inspired former Cub Adam Greenberg after scary head injury


How Dusty Baker inspired former Cub Adam Greenberg after scary head injury

Adam Greenberg’s baseball career was cut short by a scary head injury 15 years ago. But with the help of Dusty Baker, he found the motivation to transition to his post-baseball life.

Greenberg made his MLB debut with the Cubs on July 9, 2005, and Baker called upon the then 24-year-old to pinch-hit in the ninth inning against the Marlins. On the first pitch Greenberg saw in the big leagues, Marlins reliever Valerio De Los Santos hit him in the back of the head with a 92-mph fastball.

Greenberg was concussed from the incident, suffered from vertigo and vision problems, and battled depression. The Cubs released him in 2006 and he caught on in the minor leagues with the Royals and later the Dodgers in 2007 — which is when Baker reappears in the story. From MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart:

A couple of years following the incident, in 2007, Baker got a letter from a fan requesting a baseball card be signed. In the letter, the person told Baker that Greenberg had been released by the Royals and his baseball career was in jeopardy. Baker tracked down Greenberg and left him the voice mail that served as his motivation for a post-baseball life.

“It was so genuine and from the heart,” Greenberg said. “It put me in tears the first time, but it was the motivation and inspiration I needed to get up and keep going. And since then, he’s been somebody that’s been near and dear to me."

It's unfortunate Greenberg couldn’t experience a long big-league career, but Baker inspired him and helped him move forward post-baseball. According to McTaggart, Greenberg started a nutrition company and sold it 10 years later. He also ran for state senate in Connecticut in 2019 and is currently a baseball analyst for the ACC Network.

Greenberg’s career effectively ended moments after it began, but 2005 wasn’t the last time he stepped in a big-league batters’ box. In 2012, fans started an online petition to get him one last at-bat — and his career came full circle. The Marlins signed him to a one-day contract on Oct. 2, 2012, and he pinch-hit that same day against the Mets.

Greenberg struck out on three pitches, but Baker’s voicemail left a mark on his life. Seeing him enjoy success outside of baseball is as heartwarming as it gets.

Former Cubs manager Dusty Baker reportedly to take Houston Astros job

Former Cubs manager Dusty Baker reportedly to take Houston Astros job

The Houston Astros are going through one of the more unusual offseasons in recent baseball history, but they reportedly have a man picked out to the guide team out of it.

According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the Astros have pegged Dusty Baker to be the team’s next manager. Baker takes over after A.J. Hinch was unceremoniously fired following details of the sign-stealing investigation came out.

Baker, 70, was the Cubs manager from 2003-2006. He guided the North Siders to the 2003 NLCS before the team’s infamous collapse to the Marlins in that series.

Baker last managed the Washington Nationals in 2016 and 2017. The Nationals won the NL East both years, but were bounced out in the NLDS each postseason.

In the Astros, Baker takes over a team that has won more than 100 games each of the past three seasons, including winning the 2017 World Series and making it to the 2019 World Series. 

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