Germaphobe Athletics Manager Melvin Trying to get Comfortable with COVID-19 Realities

John Hickey

Bob Melvin is not unlike most managers. During the Major League Baseball season, he’s used to spending huge chunks of the day (or night) at the ballpark.

In 2020, with baseball trying to play through a COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, that reality is no longer possible. There’s testing, temperature-taking, mask-wearing and time restrictions.

It’s taken some getting used to. Yet for all of that, there are some things that aren’t a big deal for Melvin that other skippers might have greater difficulty adjusting to.

Take the whole washing of hands thing. Melvin is a germaphobe, always has been. He arrived as the Oakland manager in the middle of the 2011 season. In 2012, he helped to see to it that a Purell dispenser was part of the A’s dugout.

Regular hand cleansing has always been part of his routine.

“We’ve had that there for a while; I used it at least five times a game, and that was before this started,” Melvin said, referring to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. “Now I have a (hand sanitizer) in my back pocket, too, for when I’m out on the field. So, I think it’s probably easier on me than on other guys who rarely thought about that.”

The amount of time managers spend at the part now has been dramatically restricted. When Rene Lachemann was manager of the Mariners, he spent on season actually living in the Kingdome. His running joke was that “I have all the beer I need, and I don’t have to drive home.”

When the A’s had a night game followed by a noon-ish start during his tenure, as often as not Oakland manager Tony La Russa would sleep on the couch in his office. Who needed to lose time to a two-way commute that would see him get just a couple of hours of sleep?

Melvin doesn’t travel that path, but it was nothing to see him arrive at the Coliseum seven or eight hours before a night game. That won’t happen in 2020. MLB is keeping players and staff away from the ballpark as much as possible in the never-ending battle against coronavirus.

It’s not Melvin’s style, but he’s dealing with it.

“Yeah, it really doesn't matter whether I'm comfortable; I have to get comfortable with it,” he said. “You know with the testing and so forth and even getting into the parking lot now you know with the temperature checks and the answering the questions, you have to realize that that your routines are going to be altered.

“From the minute you get to the ballpark, like I said, even before you get in, so I'm trying not to let that bother me.”

For road games, in particular, the Melvin over previous seasons would be a particularly early riser. When the A’s have their 30 road games this season – the first one is scheduled for July 31 in Seattle’s T-Mobile Park (Safeco gave up its sponsorship before the 2019 season) – is when Melvin’s routines will have the biggest change.

“I’m guessing I’ll do a lot more (prep work) maybe in the hotel on the road, too,” the manager said, “before I get to the ballpark. I’m comfortable with the amount of time in preparation that we have. We’re just going to have to deal with it.

“What we’re trying to do is get a baseball game on the field. And that’s what everybody wants to see.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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