As Major League Baseball continues to work toward putting a plan in place to begin the 2020 season amidst the coronavirus pandemic, there are still plenty of hurdles in the way. One of the largest is the safety of the players.
Even if teams only play games against nearby opponents in empty stadiums, other precautions will still need to be taken. Though the actual setting of the field itself may be fine, there are other parts of the game-day routine that may create more health risks.
Clubhouses are one of the threats to player safety as it would create an enclosed environment in which players are close to one another. If Major League Baseball is going to have a season, clubhouses may not be a part of it.
Hall-of-Famer and Orioles' great Cal Ripken Jr. believes the players would be able to work through a season without clubhouses, if that is how MLB proceeds. Though he sees it as a challenge, Ripken doesn't believe it will be much of a block for the players.
“I think everyone will adjust," Ripken told the Rich Eisen Show on Tuesday.
Ripken did admit that throughout his 21-year career, the clubhouse did have its benefits. After games, they could get together and discuss things that went wrong and work to be better when they took the field the next day.
However, though he rarely ventures into clubhouses anymore, he mentioned that when he does a good amount of players are out of there rather quickly. Ripken doesn't see that as a flaw, though, he made sure to note that the bulk of a team's chemistry doesn't come from moments near the lockers, but rather during tense moments in a game.
“All those things can be worked around because the real competition starts when you’re facing the pitcher on the mound and you get in the situations and try to win a game," Ripken said. “I think all of the natural instincts of all the athletes kick in at such a high level. Where it’s not that they’re blocking out any fan participation -- there’s nothing like having that element, that environment. That’s the difference of playing in the minor leagues a lot of times in front of hardly anybody and then come to the big leagues, you’ve got to make an adjustment to that level. But, I think everyone will adjust.”
"To me, chemistry and comradery is built out there on the field. It’s built with your successes in the eighth inning, executing a bunt play, holding a guy on, throwing a guy out stealing, preserving a win with a double play," he added. "I think all those confidences are made mostly out on the field. But it’ll be different, but I think everybody will respond to the challenge put before them.”
Besides chemistry, Ripken also thinks players can still find success in a world where their routine becomes showing up to the ballpark right before the first pitch. The former shortstop has even seen it first-hand during his time with the Orioles.
His teammate Brady Anderson had some interesting pregame rituals that included arriving at the ballpark with little time to spare. While unconventional, it helped Anderson put together impressive seasons that included a campaign with 50 home runs.
“He wanted to time it just perfectly, so he would roller blade over in his uniform with sweats over top. He would go down the lading dock tunnel, come out the groundskeeping side with roller blades on. Kick them off, velcro, put spikes on, that way he could maximize his time at home," Ripken said. "But he made a grand entrance to stretching quite a few times.”
It's hard to envision any current players taking a page out of Anderson's playbook and rollerblading right onto the field. However, no matter how they arrive at the ballpark and where they are allowed to spend the time before and after a game, Ripken believes adjustments will be made.
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