Athletics GM David Forst Still Working on How to Get Baseball Up & Running in Midst of Pandemic

Oakland Athletics general manager David Forst says that the current plan is to have the A's players, 42 of them, report to the Oakland Coliseum on July 3. Figuring out ways to make social distancing meaningful in thje time of a pandemic is a work in progress.
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Baseball is back. Oakland Athletics general manager David Forst couldn’t be happier about that.

However, news that the A’s players are due to report to the Coliseum on July 3 and knowing that the season will start three weeks later has meant that he’s had to spend most of Tuesday and Wednesday working on non-baseball issues.

“We haven’t spent a lot of time on baseball yet,” Forst said in a conference call with beat writers. “I’m looking forward to that."

The A’s didn’t know for certain until this week that the Coliseum would be available to them but as club president Dave Kaval “was never worried about it, so I was never worried about it,” Forst said. The team paid its $1.25 million rent on Monday, and both the A’s and the Coliseum are working at getting the facility up to speed for a season to be played in the middle of a pandemic.

Opening day was supposed to be on March 26, but the arrival of the COVID-19 coronavirus brought the sport to a halt two weeks earlier, and the past three months have been spent trying to figure out how to play baseball in the midst of a health crisis.

“I don’t know how to break it down,” Forst said. “Specifically, you are putting a lot of people in a small confined space, which is the one thing that medical experts are telling us not to do.

“So, we’ll have to limit our time as much as possible. Guys will have to wear masks as much as possible. So, this is going to be a challenge.”

He and equipment manager Steve Vucinich are in the process of determining the best use of both the A’s clubhouse, which is small, and the Raiders’ locker room, which is larger, but not big enough to have 42 players and coaches successfully social distance. It may be difficult to do that, even using both clubhouses.

And the club is trying to find an area close to the visiting clubhouse so that the visiting team won’t be crammed in. The manual put forward by Major League Baseball talks about the need to build auxiliary facilities, if necessary, and in the case of the Coliseum, it’s mandatory. There isn’t much space near the visiting clubhouse, so the visiting team may wind up being placed some distance away.

At this point the A’s are only planning on playing fan-less intrasquad games to tune up for the season. The manual says that the clubs may play games with other organizations the final three days of the spring, and with the Giants just a bus ride across San Francisco Bay away, the A’s and Giants may wind up getting in their annual Bay Bridge series in.

Some other issues Forst touched on:

--The team expects to have its taxi squad of about 30 players to be located in Stockton, 70 miles east where the A’s California League team, the Stockton Ports, are located. The dozen players from the 42 who don’t make the opening day roster will wind up there, as will another 18 players who will report there sometime later in June.

--The A’s aren’t bringing in any extra coaches, although Mark Kotsay, who generally doesn’t spend time in the dugout, is expected to be in uniform to help out.

--Forst and manager Bob Melvin have talked about bringing in a second batting cage for spring training, but it’s not clear that they’ll go ahead with that.

--Before the workouts start, players and staff will be tested, and there’s a chance that the first day of workouts could get pushed back to July 4.

--Forst said he’s not going to get caught up in the fact that the A’s will almost certainly be playing with no fans at home but teams like the Rangers and Astros are expected to be allowed to have a certain percentage of their seats filled. He did say “I sort of feel like all 30 clubs and all the players, we’re sort of all in this thing together trying to make the season happen.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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