Los Angeles Dodgers hitting coach Brant Brown used to see his daily drive to the ballpark as an opportunity to make phone calls. But this season he has learned, as many of the team's players and coaches have, that it's best to stay quiet on his commute to save up enough saliva for the diagnostic/PCR test that usually awaits him.
Brown's adjustment is a shell on a sandy beach, just one example of the countless alterations made by players, coaches, trainers and everybody else involved with making Major League Baseball games possible in a time when the coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate the country.
Life has been predictably different for the 3,500-plus players, coaches and staff members who are classified as Tier 1 or 2 personnel on the 30 MLB teams during the first two weeks of this atypical 2020 season. That is especially the case for players, who have quickly modified so many of the aspects of playing a game that has encompassed most of their lives. The protocols are a nuisance but necessary, as further evidenced by recent outbreaks on the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals that forced numerous postponements and schedule adjustments.
Below is a look at some of the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything.
Watching the game
To allow for "enhanced physical distancing," baseball's operations manual stipulates that only players with a decent chance of entering the day's game should sit in the dugout. The rest are free to roam -- with restrictions on the use of electronic devices -- and many are still adjusting.
Dodgers pitchers Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Ross Stripling and Julio Urias basically didn't know what to do with themselves on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium. They started in the left-field seats above the bullpen, moved to the weight room, then made their way back outside, sitting in the new seats just beyond the outfield fence. Stripling had the idea of sitting in the famous Crawford boxes when the team played at Minute Maid Park in Houston, but those seats were already taken -- by cardboard cutouts.
Chicago Cubs starter Jon Lester was able to take in a game from Wrigley Field's bleacher seats in left field, devoid of real or fake fans.
"It was awesome to watch a game there," Lester said. "I'm glad I did it. Then we walked around the stadium to get some different views. It's kind of boring not being allowed in the dugout or clubhouse during games. You have to find stuff to do."
A trip to Houston would typically mean that Stripling stays at his own place, sees his grandmother and catches up with friends.