The Dodgers have both an "immunocompromised" player and a reporter who covers them.
The player is Scott Alexander, a Type 1 diabetic, and whether there is a 2020 baseball season or not, he’s going to be at higher risk of infection than the average Joe. Or Joc. Or Justin.
Alexander is going to monitor his glucose levels and follow common sense guidelines to remain healthy whether there is baseball this summer or not. And he would whether there was a worldwide coronavirus outbreak or not. But since there is, he's got some thinking to do before lacing up the spikes prematurely.
While the 30-year-old Alexander isn't particularly worried about it -- at least not that he's letting on publicly -- the Los Angeles organization is careful about these types of things, and always up on the latest science. If there is a clubhouse in baseball where a player can expect the strictest safety measures to be adopted, it's the one at 1000 Vin Scully Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012.
The immunocomprised reporter is yours truly. I'm a kidney transplant recipient, who if all is well will celebrate being a 30-year survivor on September 22. Which is Tommy Lasorda's 93rd birthday. Coincidence? I think not.
Like all transplant patients, I've employed a sort of social distancing regularly since that bright sunny Saturday in 1990 (the Dodgers beat the Giants 6-3, Dennis Cook over Mike LaCoss, with three hits including a homer from Juan Samuel). My friends and family know the drill. If they're sick, even in the slightest, they let me know and I don't go see them. If I'm sick, I don't go anywhere. I wash my hands a lot. And I take medication to suppress my immune system. Two medications, actually. And I never miss a dose.
To be precise, I should note that the term, "immunocompromised" refers to those with a literally compromised immune system. In my case, the immune system is suppressed intentionally to trick the body not to attack an object which wasn't, shall we say, installed at the factory.
According to my doctor, Saman Lashkari, M.D., a type 1 diabetic such as Alexander "is not classified as immunocompromised by definition, but is at higher risk of infection. Not all diabetics are the same. Some may be at more risk than others."
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The Dodgers also have a Hodgkin lymphoma survivor to be concerned about. An important one, in manager Dave Roberts. Dr. Lashkari tells me that a Hodgkins patient is also "at higher risk, but if now cured should be fine," depending on the amount of time out from treatment. Roberts has been cancer-free since 2013.
From my perspective, the regular media scrum with the skipper four hours before first pitch when the club is at home should be cancelled until further notice.
In fact, I have some additional thoughts on the topic. Here is what I recommend the club - and by extension, Major League Baseball - implement as a plan for media participation in 2020. At least in 2020:
1. Daily testing of every reporter, photographer, videographer, sound technician, etc., at the press entrance by the top deck turnstile prior to admittance. You want distance between the players and the media? That’s a good 700 feet right there.
2. No mask, no entry, no exceptions.
3. Social distancing in the cramped mid-century-built Dodger Stadium press box is impossible, unless you cut the entrants in half, and even then it’ll be difficult. The Petco Park facility, opened in 2004, to give you an idea, is easily twice the size as Vin Scully Press Box, and that’s with a considerably smaller group of local media.
4. Cut the press box occupancy by two thirds. Masks must be worn start to finish. Or more accurately, entry to exit.
5. Allow the media to sit in the loge level - players will be sitting in the lowest-level seats - spread out by more than six feet. How does 15 feet grab you? Extension cords aplenty.
6. No media in the windowless clubhouse this year. Period. The interview room below the field level is going to be dicey as well, but should suffice for the run-of-the-mill weeknight affair with the Padres in town. For more important contests, set up a table with a mic for the players (who are to appear one at a time only) and folding chairs for the media, on the field after the game. Reassess for the postseason. And find out if champagne cures COVID-19.
7. Sorry Rick Monday, Alanna Rizzo, etc., but no closeup interviewing of players for you. Maybe next year. Alanna in the dugout during games? That’s out too, face covering notwithstanding.
8. Take special care with Dodgers Alexander and Roberts.
That's a good place to start. I imagine the Dodgers have thought of all of these things, and probably a number of others.
While it’s not my preference to sit in the second deck of an almost-empty ballpark to cover the great game of baseball in person, I think it’ll be fascinating. And that’s my plan, if the hosts will allow it.
And remember, glove conquers all. But a mask helps.
Howard Cole has been writing about baseball on the internet since Y2K. Follow him on Twitter.