Thursday was presupposed to be Major League Baseball’s opening day. Two weeks later, on April 9, Minor League Baseball was supposed to carry its personal.
Instead, the coronavirus pandemic pressured baseball to cancel spring coaching and postpone the beginning of the season indefinitely, sending most gamers — main and minor leaguers — home in the interim.
Except for the Yankees.
On March 15, the Florida Department of Health knowledgeable the franchise that certainly one of its minor league gamers, a 17-year-old pitcher, had examined optimistic for the novel coronavirus. Later that day, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman shared that information with the group and defined what it meant: All minor league gamers and a few employees — about 175 folks in all — had been really helpful to isolate themselves via March 25.
They must keep inside, monitor for signs and report any that got here up, enterprise out as little as doable and apply social distancing of at the least 6 ft.
“It was a shock for a lot of us,” stated Nick Ernst, 23, who pitched for the Class A Staten Island Yankees final season. “We didn’t know what that entailed.”
So as a substitute of Thursday being the start of a brand new main league season, it’s as a substitute the tip of a two-week isolation interval for dozens of youngsters and younger adults whose bodily health is their livelihood.
They saved busy with actions starting from enjoying video video games (MLB The Show was the most well-liked) to filming home exercise movies (which included racing towards geese and chickens) to binge watching films (one participant was watching all 23 Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero movies so as) to studying to play the ukulele.
“It was not as tough as I thought it would be,” pitcher Jake Agnos, 21, stated of the ukulele, which he borrowed from certainly one of his spring coaching roommates, Evan Voliva. “I’m still not good — trust me — but it’s fun to watch YouTube videos on how to play a song and then get it.”
Many of the Yankees minor leaguers have been unfold throughout three extended-stay motels in Tampa. Some, together with infielder Max Burt, Agnos and Ernst, secured their very own homes or residences. But all are wrestling with comparable challenges: fear, makes an attempt to nonetheless work, uncertainty in regards to the future, and the steadiness between adjusting to being cooped up and cherishing security.
“It’s definitely tough just sitting at home and not doing anything,” Agnos stated. “But at the end of the day, we understand the severity of this disease. So now it’s our goal to try to stop the spread of it.”
To cross the time, Burt and his roommates challenged Agnos and his roommates to make the very best home-workout movies. In one, Agnos and his fellow Yankees minor leaguer Josh Smith do push-ups and push a pickup truck. In later movies, Smith fields grounders whereas hopping via tires, and Burt works on his second-base feeds by knocking over water bottles.
The Yankees despatched their minor leaguers really helpful exercise routines via an app. The drills relied totally on every participant’s personal physique weight — squats, lunges, jumps — within the absence of exercise tools.
“You really don’t realize how much stuff you can do without a weight,” Agnos stated.
To feed the gamers, the Yankees employed a neighborhood catering firm to arrange three meals a day for every minor league participant. With the assistance of Yankees officers, meals had been handed out on the motels, and gamers staying elsewhere drove as soon as a day to the Yankees’ minor league facility to choose up their meals from attendees sporting gloves.
Players additionally picked up their allowances with their meals. At first, they got the usual $25 a day for meal cash, however the Yankees elevated that to $75 a day final week — an incentive to honor the really helpful isolation. Once the quarantine ends, gamers will obtain a $400 every week (about $57 a day) sum that M.L.B. made uniform final week throughout the minor leagues till April 9.
Players stated the Yankees’ quarantine was primarily based on an honor system. If they ventured out past their spring coaching houses and the meals pickups, such because the grocery retailer, they stated, they did so solely as soon as each a number of days and maintained wholesome distances from others.
To assist the gamers perceive the coronavirus, the Yankees additionally held a handful of convention calls with well being specialists, in English and Spanish, and arrange an electronic mail tackle for gamers to ship in questions.
“They’re doing a good job socially, too, by not spreading it,” Agnos stated. “It would have been much easier financially to just tell us to go home.”
Early final week, with the quarantine nicely underway, a second Yankees minor leaguer examined optimistic for the coronavirus. For a number of Yankees minor leaguers, that additional drove home the purpose of their quarantine and the significance of monitoring their well being.
Every morning and night time, Ernst stated he checked his temperature; earlier than leaving his home in Ohio for spring coaching, his fiancée insisted he take a thermometer, simply in case. “She’s been on top of me to make sure I’m doing everything I need to do to stay healthy,” he stated.
Ernst was thrilled for the ending of the quarantine on Thursday. But for a lot of minor league gamers, a lot uncertainty lies forward. With their season on maintain till, on the earliest, mid-May, they nonetheless face loads of questions.
Should the Yankees’ minor leaguers return home, particularly if that home is in a coronavirus sizzling spot? Should they hit and throw or relaxation? What in regards to the residences they’d already rented via the tip of spring coaching? Could they be asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus and put members of the family, akin to grandparents, again home in danger?
“I really don’t know what to expect,” Agnos stated. “I’m kind of nervous. You don’t want to come home and not have any symptoms, and then have it and pass it along.”
Some gamers haven’t any alternative however to remain put. The second Yankees minor leaguer who examined optimistic after the quarantine started will stay remoted a bit longer. And due to insecurity or travel restrictions of their home international locations, Yankees minor leaguers from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic are anticipated to stay in Tampa.
For minor leaguers throughout the game, cash is at all times an element. They typically earn wherever from $1,000 to $15,000 a season. M.L.B. stated final week that it will talk about the way to compensate gamers after April 9, the unique begin date for the minor league season. In the meantime, some Yankees minor leaguers might must return home to work facet gigs.
“The thing is we’ve just been used to this lifestyle, so it’s nothing new,” stated Burt, 23, who signed for $5,000 after the Yankees picked him within the 28th spherical of the 2018 draft. He added: “You grind and don’t live great and don’t have the best living conditions until you hopefully end up making the big leagues and everything gets better.”
Burt was uncertain on Friday if he would return home to Boston or hyperlink up with different minor leaguers in Florida to proceed figuring out. Ernst, a 15th-round choose in 2018, hoped to stay in Tampa. Aside from one journey to the grocery retailer, he stated he saved every thing the Yankees gave him. But if cash turned an issue, he may lean on his fiancée, a instructor, or resume his low season job working at a provide firm in Ohio.
“That’s going to be the main question when we get done with this quarantine: Do we go home or do we stay here and throw?” he stated. “We’re trying to get a scope of when the season is going to start. It’s a guessing game.”