As the coronavirus pandemic put the MLB season on hold and tensions grew between the owners and players union, it became increasingly clear that it was going to take a while before baseball returns. So in order to stay in shape, a group of MLB players that included Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Giancarlo Stanton and Paul Goldschmidt got together with a trainer in Florida and began holding secret practice.
The Athletic’s Britt Ghiroli reported Thursday that a group of more than 30 major leaguers banded together in Palm Beach and practiced together before holding a pair of sandlot games in June that would’ve been as competitive as any All-Star Game.
Players got their first taste of playing while practicing social distancing, frequently changing out balls and banning sliding into bases. The mastermind behind the plan was New York Yankees trainer Eric Cressey, who compared the practices to “Fight Club” and said some players called it “prohibition baseball.”
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Nationals starters Austin Voth and Kyle McGowin joined Scherzer as the Nationals’ representatives in a a group that also reportedly included Corey Kluber, Noah Syndergaard (recovering from Tommy John), Logan Morrison, Luke Jackson, Richard Bleier, Robert Gsellman, Michael Wacha, Jesús Luzardo and Brad Hand. Even NFL players such as Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett and free agent punter Matt Bosher were at the facility.
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Scherzer, who was living with his own personal bullpen catcher in Orioles backstop Bryan Holaday, kept busy as a member of the eight-player MLBPA executive subcommittee. He reported to Nationals Park on Wednesday before the start of Spring Training 2.0—or Summer Camp, as some have called it.
The season is set to begin July 23-24, with the Nationals reportedly facing the New York Yankees on Opening Day in a game that would pit Scherzer against $324 million man Gerrit Cole.
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