Texas Rangers are Utilizing Space, Embracing Inconveniences to Combat COVID-19
Baseball is officially back. Major League Baseball and the Players Association were able to get a season implemented, albeit as begrudgingly as possible. Now that the two sides have put aside their differences for the time being, there is still an enemy at large: COVID-19.
It may have seemed like the novel coronavirus took a back seat while the league and the players squabbled over economics to no end. However, we've all been dealt a harsh and cruel reality check in the past several days. Positive cases of COVID-19 continue to spike throughout the country, especially in Texas. Throughout Major League Baseball over 40 cases have been reported, including Colorado Rockies star outfielder Charlie Blackmon.
As the Texas Rangers prepare for a baseball season, they also have to prepare for how to combat COVID-19. And it all starts in the coming days as players make their way to Arlington for Spring Training 2.0.
“We have dual goals here: To avoid hospitalizations and to put ourselves in position to win the World Series. I think they go hand-in-hand," Rangers GM Jon Daniels said in a Zoom call on Wednesday. "We will have a code of conduct we will agree on. If somebody puts himself at risk, he is potentially putting everybody at risk.
“The guidelines and protocols are about minimizing risk and managing the virus. I think we all know we aren’t going to be able to eliminate it. Everybody understands there will be some risk involved.”
The largest benefit of hosting camp in Arlington is taking advantage of space. The Rangers plan to use Globe Life Field's home, visiting, and auxiliary clubhouses to spread players and staff apart. They also plan on staggering workouts throughout the day to limit the number of players on the field at a time.
The Rangers also plan to use the facilities across the street at Globe Life Park. While it has been reconfigured for football and soccer, there are still a number of ways the Rangers can utilize their former home.
"The whole bullpen still exists, so we have two mounds in Globe Life Park that are still in good shape," said Rangers Executive Vice President of Business Operations Rob Matwick on Wednesday. "We can put a cage in there like we do for batting practice. ...We can hit out toward the field. Obviously, we can catch and we can hit ground balls."
Once the taxi squad separates from the major league group, they will work out at another facility, which the Rangers are expected to select that location by Thursday or Friday. According to Jon Daniels, the most likely choices will be either Globe Life Park or where the club's Double-A affiliate plays in Frisco.
As for the regular season, the Rangers believe they can properly distance their players. Their brand new clubhouse is significantly larger than Globe Life Park's and the Rangers plan to vacate the new field-level suites to distance players on the field.
There are a vast number of health and safety protocols that will be put into place to keep players as safe as possible. Even so, there are still high-risk players that have the right to opt out and forgo the season.
The most notable player for the Rangers is newcomer Kyle Gibson, who has ulcerative colitis—an auto-immune disease. Those players will have to let their respective clubs know in the coming days if they plan to play or opt out.
"No one has [opted out], to my knowledge, at this point," Daniels said. "But it's something we're very aware of with the players, and not just the players, the staff that have some medical history that we need to factor in."
Even with all of these efforts, COVID-19 could prove to be too big a foe. If the baseball season is to survive the onslaught of COVID-19, containment will be paramount.
“I’m hopeful. But we’ve all seen with the virus that making any kind of long-term predictions are difficult. So, I’m not going to try," Daniels said. "I’m of the mindset it’s not if we get a positive test, but when and then it’s about how it will be handled. It’s about if one person gets sick, does it spread through the whole group?
"It’s going to take a lot of diligence. A lot of that can be an inconvenience in the moment, but that’s all they are: inconveniences. They aren’t things that are hard to do. We are going to remind guys of that."