Since Major League Baseball made its initial decision to postpone Opening Day and cancel Spring Training – a justifiable yet discouraging choice made one week ago on Thursday – the novel coronavirus has continued to forcibly alter lives across the nation.
Whether you're in self quarantine or staying home because there's no work or school to go to, odds are you're going through your own sets of withdrawals and reflections. After all, binge watching television shows can only take your mind off current events for so long.
Unsurprisingly, professional athletes are hankering for normalcy as well.
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the Yankees' organization more so than any other franchise in MLB. Two Minor League players in New York's system have already tested positive for the virus, facilities have been shut down and big-league players and coaches – after initially voicing their unanimous intentions to cohesively extend Spring Training together – have begun dispersing across the country (and around the world).
In an alternative reality where COVID-19 doesn't exist, Opening Day wouldn't be delayed eight weeks – it would be exactly one week away. For Yankees like DJ LeMahieu, practicing at George M. Steinbrenner Field these last few days has been one of the only ways he's been able to stay "sane."
“Personally, it keeps me sane,” LeMahieu told reporters on Thursday. “It's nice to be able to come here and at least work out and do some baseball stuff. I'd be going crazy if I wasn't able to do that at least. We're doing that and they're making it as safe as possible for us in there. I think it's a good situation.”
The Yankees' second baseman – who broke out in his first season in pinstripes last year and finished fourth in the race for the American League Most Valuable Player Award – is sticking around for the foreseeable future.
“I don't really want to go home,” explained LeMahieu. “All the gyms are closed in Michigan, and it's cold. Kind of being able to be outside a little bit here and work out, I just think that's the best place to be right now.”
LeMahieu was one of the big leaguers spotted at the Yankees' spring complex on Wednesday – he took on-field batting practice with Giancarlo Stanton, Clint Frazier and Tyler Wade.
Hitting coach Marcus Thames, who was present for the informal workout, explained that the players that haven't left are finding solace in working out. These practices, however, are by no means normal. Everyone is taking necessary precautions to stay healthy.
“It's weird. I have to wear latex gloves and batting gloves,” Thames told reporters through the window of his SUV. “Just trying to stay safe, trying to listen to the health people and make sure we're doing the right thing.”
In 2019, LeMahieu posted a potent .327 batting average while mashing 26 homers and driving in 102 runs. His versatility on the defensive end was integral as the Yankees confronted a barrage of injuries – an MLB-record 39 total trips to the injured list to be exact.
After signing a two-year deal last offseason, ending his seven-season stint with the Colorado Rockies, LeMahieu is now entering the final season on his current agreement with the Bombers. Earlier this spring, when asked if he wants to be a Yankee after 2020, he didn't hesitate and said he would "love to be here." At the time, however, LeMahieu revealed that the team hadn't reached out to negotiate any sort of extension.
Just like he wants to stay in pinstripes next year, he wants to continue getting better. Barring further unprecedented circumstances with the coronavirus, you can expect LeMahieu to continue utilizing the club's facilities moving forward. He's just hopeful that this period of uncertainty will wrap up sooner rather than later.
“We want to play as soon as possible," LeMahieu said.
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