Nicaraguan Baseball's COVID-19 Experience a Cautionary Tale for MLB

The Nicaraguan pro baseball league tried to play through the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, but paid the price when a coach for the San Fernando team died. Will Major League Baseball players and owners learn from that as movement toward a 2020 season is negotiated?
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While Major League Baseball owners and players seem no closer to getting their money issues settle as a move toward starting a shortened MLB season for 2020, it seems more than ever that both sides have taken their eye off the ball.

Down in Nicaragua, baseball never shut down when leagues in the U.S., and most of Asia did. Nothing shut down through March or April in Nicaragua with the government of the Central American nation downplaying the danger posed by the COVID-19 coronavirus and the pandemic that has ensued.

Then the cost of playing a full scheduled with fans in the stands and no personal protective equipment became evident. In the midst of a May road trip, the San Fernando Beasts ran head-on into the virus. Manager Norman Cardoze, Sr., coach Carlos Aranda and Cardone’s son, Norman Jr., the team’s star, were sick, Cardone Jr. in such bad shape that he didn’t play on May 16.

Two days later, all three were in the hospital. Cardoze father and son spent a week in the hospital after having tested positive for COVID-19. According to the Associated Press, Aranda, 58, was unconscious by the time he got to the hospital, was never tested and died.

With other team members by this time quarantined, the season was suspended. The plan was to have it reopen this weekend. Now that’s been pushed back three weeks to June 26.

“It’s not easy to see people suffocating and die right there,” Cardoze Sr., 48 and a Hall of Fame manager, told the AP. “In just my room, like 10 died. And from there we listened to the hammering … whack, whack, whack … the coffins they were nailing shut in the other room.”

That “whack, whack, whack” is what the coronavirus pandemic is all about, coffins being loaded with bodies of the dead. What the pandemic in not about is whether MLB owners can get payroll concessions from the players or whether the players can force the owners into a longer season.

The question has to be how best to protect players, coaches, staff and the other personnel needed to get baseball back and playing. Down the line, the question also has to be about protecting fans.

You have to wonder if either side gets that. What would it be like if a player or a coach was to die of the disease after the season resumes? Would both sides feel they’d done all they could to protect against that?

The Nicaraguan Professional Baseball League didn’t. It is paying the price for that now.

Aranda’s father, Carlos Sr., told the AP waiting until the pandemic is over is the best option for the teams and the players.

“We’re like the circus clowns while a ton of people without heart of conscience are risking the lives of the players and the fans,” Aranda Sr. said.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., MLB owners and players seem only able to talk about money.

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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