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Social Distancing Loses First Confrontation With Celebrating an Athletics Walkoff Win

The Oakland Athletics played the first extra-inning game with the new runner-on-second-base rules, and the A's got a walkoff grand slam from Matt Olson to beat the Angels, 7-3. Olson was greeted by a swarm at home plate, which is exactly what social distancing guidelines are designed to prevent.

So that social distancing thing. It’s the new baseball, right?

Not so fast. Not in Oakland, at any rate. Not when the first Major League Baseball game under the new runner-at-second-base rule for extra innings ends in a walkoff grand slam from first baseman Matt Olson.

Olson was mobbed at home plate at the Coliseum by the A’s, and it was a moment from 2019. Or 1919 for that matter, a just a baseball team at home, thrilled at a walkoff victory and celebrating. There were some masks worn, but mostly not.

In looking at it afterwards, the A’s would seem reticent to change their reaction.

“Everyone came together (at the plate), and then we even wanted to do it more in the clubhouse,” reliever T.J. McFarland said Saturday morning before Game 2 of the Athletics-Angels. “But you really can’t.”

McFarland says the social distancing rules “kind of takes a little bit of intimacy out of it when we win a game like that. But we still enjoyed it and we still had an incredible night last night.”

Mike Fiers, who will star Game 3 against the Angels Monday afternoon, said, essentially, you can’t take the baseball celebration out of baseball.

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“No matter if (social distancing) is in your mind, you’re going to celebrate,” Fiers said. “You know we’re so happy for Olson at that point, but everybody was just so excited to get out of there with a `W.’ At the moment it was just about winning the game.

“We came up huge, and it’s going to be tough, and I don’t think everyone’s going to stay away from each other.”

That being said, both men said that in the aftermath there was talk about each man needing to keep his distance.

“You can quickly forgive it with a situation like that when you’re winning and you’re excited and everyone’s just so happy,” McFarland, who threw one scoreless inning in his A’s debut in the game, said. “But you’re reminded quickly that `Hey, listen, we are in the middle of a pandemic here. Let’s kind of back away and be safe and follow the protocols.”

Fiers said there was talk about moderating the celebration. At the same time, it was a gut reaction.

“In the moment, you’re not going to think about that,” Fiers said. “That’s not sports. If you love the game, it’s going to be hard, really tough, to stay away from each other, especially in moments like that.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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