With the start of the 2020 MLB season just nine days away, league officials are still considering a plethora of ideas for how to best ensure the safety of those involved in putting on games.
That includes the umpiring crews, who reportedly saw 11 umpires opt out of the season Tuesday in order to avoid the risk of contracting the coronavirus. According to Los Angeles Angels Joe Maddon, one of the measures MLB is considering is allowing umpires to fly with teams in order to limit the amount of travel and therefore possible exposure to the virus.
Nationals catcher Yan Gomes isn’t opposed to the idea, though he does recognize that there is some potential for a few awkward moments on the plane.
“I mean that could be a good thing from a safety standpoint and that could be a really weird and awkward deal if something happens in that game,” Gomes said. “I think we’re gonna have to be very cautious with that, putting them in one little section of the plane and hopefully not having to interact very much with players.
“That’s an interesting thing but if it’s something to keep everything safe from the game’s standpoint I think we can make that adjustment. I think everything [including] traveling and everything is going to be pretty unique this year and why not add umpires in there too?”
Without any umpires at Nationals Park for the first few weeks of training camp, Gomes and fellow backstop Kurt Suzuki have had to act as the team’s umpires during intrasquad games.
“It’s been super tough so I think I respect them even more,” Gomes said. “From my angle, I’m over here trying to frame balls and then I tend to forget what pitch it was. I don’t know. I haven’t had too many people complain but I think I’ve done an OK job and I think Kurt is a little tighter than I think I am.
“The first day, I made some tough calls for our own pitching staff and I was like, ‘You know what? I’m gonna give it at least a couple balls for these guys because I don’t want—the rollover innings are probably the toughest thing.’”
An umpire crew will be reporting to D.C. in advance of their first exhibition game against the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday. There’s going to be no way for catchers and umpires to avoid breaking social distancing guidelines when they stand in front of each other once games begin, but even so, Gomes isn’t worried about it.
“There’s really no concern level,” Gomes said. “Everyone here is doing a really good job on the testing and everything. It’s really just a matter of everyone staying safe and not do those silly, try-to-joke-around touches. I think we’re just going to have to be careful with that.”
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