MLB is already underway
by Ben Walker
Opening day, at last.
A baseball season that was on the brink before it ever began because of the virus outbreak started last week, marking the most bizarre year in the history of Major League Baseball.
A 60-game season, stars opting out.
Ballparks without fans, players wearing masks.
Piped-in sound effects, cardboard cutouts for spectators.
Spray-painted ads on the mound, pitchers with personal rosin bags.
And a rack of strange rules.
DHs in the National League, well, OK.
An automatic runner on second to start the 10th inning? C’mon, now.
“Gosh, it’s going to be fun,” New York Yankee Gerrit Cole said. “It’s going to have fake crowd noise, and going to be 2020 coronavirus baseball.”
Plus a team that as of last week still didn’t know where it was going to play — barred from Toronto because of health concerns, the Blue Jays will roost in Buffalo.
“You just have to accept it. Seems like every day there’s a challenge and you just have to overcome it. If this is what it’s going to be, this is what’s going to be,” Washington’s Max Scherzer said. “This is 2020 baseball.”
To many fans, that will do. No other choice, really.
Four months after the games were supposed to start, strange ball is better than no ball, right?
Six-time All-Star, three-time champion and former MVP Buster Posey of San Francisco and his wife have adopted twin identical girls who were prematurely born, and he’s among about a dozen players who have chosen to sit out this year.
“From a baseball standpoint, it was a tough decision for me,” Posey said. “From a family standpoint, making a decision to protect children, our children, it was relatively easy.”
Other players won’t be ready by this past weekend — on Wednesday, the Royals announced Hunter Dozier (26 home runs, 10 triples) had tested positive for the virus and was being put on the injured list.
For those are who healthy, it’s time to play. For how long, with the virus looming, we’ll find out soon enough.
And remember, this is a sprint.
Earlier suggestions for an expanded playoff field were scrapped, but on Thursday the league decided to add six more teams to the postseason.
Didi Gregorius and Clint Frazier homered in exhibition games while wearing masks —those aren’t mandated on the field, but many other rules and guidelines are in place.
Social distancing in the dugout.
Skip tossing the ball around the infield after strikeouts.
Keep the Phillie Phanatic and mascots off the field.
No high-fives, either. Not a problem, Phillies slugger Bryce Harper said.
“I think the air high-five is going to come back and be the coolest thing in baseball this year and be the coolest thing in sports,” he said.
Still, a lot of protocols to keep in mind for players who’ve been doing things the same way since their were kids.
“Is it going to be perfect the very first day?” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Probably not.”
NBA to start again soon
by Tim Reynolds
There’s no bench. The courtside broadcasters will not be courtside. And the stat crew will be doing their work inside what loosely can be described as an oversized hockey penalty box.
The NBA comes back this week with a very different look.
The league’s marketing motto for the restart of the season at Walt Disney World is “Whole New Game,” and in many respects, that’s very true. The arenas that will be used for the exhibitions, the seeding games that start Thursday and then the playoffs that are scheduled for mid-August through mid-October set up much differently than usual — all with safety during a pandemic very much in mind.
Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said league officials have been great.
“They really have been,” he said. “They’ve done everything right as far as I’m concerned. I mean, when you think that we’re running a village for the first time, the league is doing pretty well in city management.”
The court dimensions, of course, are unchanged.
Everything else about an NBA game setup is new.
Seating in the bench areas will be assigned, with folding chairs set up on three rows instead of the customary two and spaced out several feet from one another — instead of players sitting shoulder-to-shoulder as they have in the past.
And across the center stripe, the words “Black Lives Matter” are painted onto the surface.
The area where the official scorers, timers and statisticians sit is enclosed by plexiglass, with social distancing in that makeshift room as well. Broadcasters, who are courtside in normal circumstances, will be higher up and several feet further back from the playing surface. Even the setup for replay reviews will be different — that monitor is in the corner of the arena, instead of being kept at the scorer’s table and utilized when needed.
League officials hope they thought of every way to keep people apart and promote social distancing.
And fans couldn’t be happier
by Dave Boehler
Beacon Sports Editor
No high school softball season and then months without the Milwaukee Brewers?
“It’s been really boring,” said South soon-to-be senior Brianna Schaefer. “On TV, there’s nothing to watch. It’s kind of all just reruns. Bringing back sports gives people something to watch and something to do. Sports kind of like brings families together. You can sit down and watch a game. Without it, TV’s been bleak.”
Or what if South and the rest of the area’s boys basketball teams ended up playing in a “bubble” like the one the NBA is using in Florida?
“It would be one heck of an experience,” said Redwing Dylan Timm, who will also graduate next spring. “It’d be a challenge for sure, but you’d be with your teammates at least, so that would be fun.”
Major League Baseball returned last week and the National Basketball Association is set to on Thursday.
Timm is a Minnesota Timberwolves fan – because of Karl-Anthony Towns – and his favorite team was not even invited to Orlando. Fine with him, he says, he’ll cheer on the Milwaukee Bucks.
“It’s still fun, because basketball is back,” Timm said. “The Timberwolves weren’t very good this year, so they probably wouldn’t have done well in Orlando either. But it’s fun to watch NBA again.”
Christian baseball coach Brett Huisman is a Chicago Cubs fan who thinks they will finish ahead of the Brewers in the division, but he’s more worried about Cincinnati and St. Louis.
“It’ll be interesting,” Huisman said. “A 60-game season is kind of like a college season. Every game is almost I think 2½ times more important as far as wins and losses. … We’ll see how it plays out.”
North baseball coach Steve Goes says he is very interested to see how much the Brewers can overachieve with manager Craig Counsell in what he calls a 60-game sprint.
“I think he’s one of the smartest people around; he’s proven that the last couple of years,” Goes said. “And to watch him use his pitching staff, I’m willing to bet that he’s going to have something up his sleeve that maybe not other teams are going to do. I’m very intrigued to see how he manages this to put them over the top.”
South boys basketball coach Jesse Shaw brought up some interesting points about the Bucks.
“They have had the best record in the league, so I’d hate to not see this season finish up because I think they have a really good shot taking it all the way and winning a championship,” Shaw said. “And, who knows how long we’ll have Giannis (Antetokounmpo) as a Bucks’ fan. He may leave in a year when his contract is up. So I would hate to not play this year or have some reason that we wouldn’t finish the season, because we wouldn’t get to see him and wouldn’t possibly get a chance at winning an NBA championship for the city of Milwaukee.”
There were also some other good items that were mentioned.
Shaw wondered what if a player gets COVID-19?
“Is that team done, are they out, do we wait two weeks?” he said. “The damage control, when something does happen, I guess is going to be interesting to see. Of course we don’t want it to happen, but when and if it does, now what?”
And the lack of fans in the stands could effect the players more than we think, according to Schaefer.
“It’s really weird to see the stands not full of fans,” she said. “It’s really weird, like watching it on TV, like part of the game is having the fans there. I’m kind of curious on how it’s going to be for the player’s morale. It’s always nice to have people come and watch you, see you play, family members and that type of thing. Is there going to be the same love of the game?”
Yes or no, Shaw says a lot of people are just starved for this.
“It sure will be fun to see live sports again,” he said.