Davey Martinez pondered what seemed an unlikely scenario back on May 1.
No one knew what was coming -- with coronavirus or the prospective baseball season. Though, it appeared teams would return to their spring training facility, for Spring Training 2.0 as it has been so merrily labeled, if there was a reboot.
Beforehand, the Houston Astros reopened their side of FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches for individual workouts May 25. They left the park, which was turned into a coronavirus testing center after its initial closure when spring training stopped, 10 days later. The Nationals never re-entered the facility despite multiple players remaining in the West Palm Beach area. They instead worked out alone, watched and waited.
Prior to the Astros’ entrance and extraction from the spring training facility, Martinez was asked during his lone media availability about the idea of spring training being forced into teams’ home ballparks. It seemed a longshot then. Yet, that’s precisely what happened.
“We talk about isolation and more than 10 people gathering in one place, with only one field we may have to separate and make groups,” Martinez said then on a conference call. “Whether starting pitchers come in the morning, bullpen guys come another time, then regular players come sometime in the afternoon. With one field it’s going to be hard to do. If we have to play scrimmage games, maybe using both dugouts, send guys in the stands. These are all things that are going to have to come into play.”
Further complicating the situation will be the permission needed from the District for the Nationals to use Nationals Park. NBC4 reported they were on a waiting list to receive a waiver. Multiple requests from NBC Sports Washington to the office of Mayor Muriel Bowser went unanswered.
Surrounding minor-league ballparks could be in play for taxi squad workouts or even extra space. For instance, Fredericksburg has a new, unused stadium.
Martinez will start with pitchers and catchers. They report on July 1. Position players will follow shortly after.
Only three mounds will be available: the main game mound and the bullpen mounds. Typically, the Nationals use at least four fields at once for live batting practice in West Palm Beach. Up to six fields can be used at the same time. Pitchers also have the opportunity to work from the “14-Pack” of bullpen mounds. A multi-purpose turf field just outside of the glassed-in weight room also exists for work ranging from agility drills to cabbage races. Spacious battings cages are beyond the turf field.
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Nationals Park has a smaller weight room, a smaller section for batting cages, and will need to be navigated through the extensive health protocols put forth Tuesday night in a 101-page operations manual created by the league.
It’s unclear if the team will play any exhibition games before the season starts. A regional matchup -- say with the Baltimore Orioles -- is a possibility.
Nothing about what is to come is going to be easy. And, the logistical challenges start July 1 with the resumption of spring training in a much different facility than usual.
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