Major League Baseball is not requiring players to wear masks on the field. In the clubhouse, in the weight room, on the team bus, on airplanes … yes, players are being asked to mask up in those places.
But wearing one on the field is up to each individual player. Some have tried them and said it's difficult to breathe through the mouth-and-nose covering. Others have simply said they don't intend to wear one while playing.
Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius is different. He does not intend to play without one.
No ifs, ands or buts.
He's wearing one.
And he has been since the Phillies resumed workouts at Citizens Bank Park earlier this month.
"I am definitely wearing it in games because I think it adds safety for everybody, for me and people around me," Gregorius said before an intrasquad game at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday. "So I think wearing it will be normal for me. I'm playing in it right now so I can get accustomed to it."
With the help of Phillies athletic trainers, Gregorius found a mask that he really likes. It's comfortable and it filters air.
Gregorius, 30, must take precautions to protect his health. In 2011, as a minor-leaguer in the Cincinnati organization, he was diagnosed with a kidney disorder. The issue is treatable but Gregorius takes no chances.
"I still have it and it will be there for life," Gregorius said. "I had a really good conversation with the doctors here and they said I was one of the high-risk players and everything. They ask me every day what they can do to make it better for me, so there has been really good communication. We are trying to go through the guidelines and trying to do everything we can do to stay safe. So that's why people see me walking around with a mask on and stuff. I am keeping myself safe, wearing a mask everywhere I go. So I've got to keep it on me all the time."
The majority of Phillies players are not wearing masks during on-field workouts. Coaches and staff are wearing them on the field.
Gregorius was asked if he'd feel more comfortable if more players wore a mask like him.
"I mean, I can't force a person to wear their mask," he said. "But it's for everybody's safety. I'd prefer for everybody to wear it. You've got to get the right one, too, while you're playing so you can breathe normal, because if you are wearing a mask and you can't breathe it's going to be hard."
Gregorius signed a one-year, $14 million contract with the Phillies in December. The shutdown gave him unexpected time to recover from the elbow surgery he had after the 2018 season. He spent his time during the shutdown training for baseball and learning more about a new hobby: tattooing.
"I've started tattooing other people, family and friends," said the artistic shortstop, who is already known for his drawing talent.
Gregorius will go back on the free-agent market this winter. He would help himself (and the Phillies) by tattooing baseballs in the 60-game season that begins next week.
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