Starting the baseball season in July is bizarre, but I’ll take it
It’s four months late, far shorter and way weirder than we ever could’ve imagined it would be — but the Major League Baseball season is finally here.
Tonight the Washington Nationals will be at home against the New York Yankees, and the Los Angeles Dodgers will host the San Francisco Giants.
LET’S GO YANKEES!
Sorry, I digress.
I, for one, cannot wait to see what this 60-game, regionally scheduled, everyone-has-a-DH season brings. If the lead-up is any indication, it’s gonna be a wild ride.
There are cardboard cutouts in the stands.
There’s piped-in crowd noise.
On Monday night, in an exhibition game against the Phillies, Aaron Judge hit a home run with three outs in the fifth.
It really is a whole new ballgame.
Earlier this month, as my family and I watched the Yankees’ intrasquad scrimmages, I kept hearing Bob Uecker as Harry Doyle in “Major League” in my head:
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Yankee Stadium, where today’s attendance is… zero. Kinda reminds you of the late-80’s doesn’t it?
Certainly does, Harry.
Well, we won’t be seeing any fans at the park this season, but if I’m not mistaken there’s a small, bald-headed bandit in a seat behind home plate.
That’s General Manager Brian Cashman.
Of course, it is! Didn’t recognize him in the mask.
Alrighty folks, Aaron Hicks steps up to the plate. Here’s the pitch. And it’s ripped to right, where it’s fielded by… no one! There doesn’t appear to be anyone playing right field at the moment…
Hang on, here comes Estevan Florial over from left. Looks like he’s playing the other two outfield positions as well as second base. Impressive!
Certainly is, Harry.
As a lifelong Yankee fan, I’ve never seen the Bombers so loose — in a good way. Five infielders. One outfielder. Who cares? We’re playing ball!
During Monday’s game, Yankees announcer Michael Kay out-Ueckered Uecker, telling viewers, “If you’re wondering who’s batting in the bottom of the ninth, your guess is as good as mine!”
I’m not sure how Big Stein would feel about the team’s more relaxed preseason vibe or the longer hair some of his players are sporting, but I’m digging the ‘do, Giancarlo Stanton.
On the rules front, high fives, fist bumps, and hugs are prohibited. But gum-chewing is allowed.
I’m relieved about that because Yankees manager Aaron Boone is a Violet Beauregarde-caliber chewer, and I was worried about how he’d, well, manage without his fix.
From what I could see on television, the Yanks’ Dubble Bubble stash now resides in a large, transparent gumball machine-esque cylinder. I’m guessing that’s to create more of an individually dispensed gum situation as opposed to dozens of guys repeatedly plunging their sweaty hands into a giant tub.
In any case, all appears to be fine. I can see Booney chomping away under his gaiter.
Speaking of gaiters, major props to Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier who said this about his choice to wear a mask on the field:
“I’m just trying to show that it’s easy to do and it’s the right thing to do. If it helps a little bit, it’s not hard to do, so I’m going to try to do it as much as I can. Hopefully someone sees it and maybe they do it, too.”
To all you morons on social media who called Frazier “a sheep” for, you know, not wanting to become infected with or infect anyone else with a highly contagious deadly virus : Shut your pie hole. And cover it with a mask while you’re at it.
And I should mention that while guys are allowed to chew gum, they can’t spit it out. I mean, they can. Just not on the dugout floor. Having been in my share of Major League dugouts during my reporting days, I know the cleaning crews are happy about that.
The postgame dugout floor is foul.
As Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports described it in a July 21st piece: “Filthy, covered in spit, dip seeds, gum wrappers and unidentified liquids.”
The broadcast booth may be a more sanitary environment, but TV and radio announcers must adjust to Covid-related safety rules as well.
For this past weekend’s pair of exhibition games against the Yankees, the Mets’ broadcast trio was split up. Gary Cohen was alone in the SNY booth while Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling sat opposite each other in the visiting area. (Visiting broadcasters will call games remotely.)
‘The first game was really, really like we were in outer space,” Hernandez told MLB.com. “I felt like I was on a spacewalk. … It was like Gary was broadcasting that first game coming out of Saturn.’
It’s all going to take some getting used to, that’s for sure.
But, hey, we made it. Opening Day is here. Sure, it’s almost August and none of us has any clue how long this crazy experiment will last. But tonight we get to watch Gerrit Cole go against Max Scherzer.
What could be better than that?
Wait, I know.
Anthony Fauci will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
“Dr. Fauci has been a true champion for our country during the Covid-19 pandemic and throughout his distinguished career, so it is only fitting that we honor him as we kick off the 2020 season and defend our World Series Championship title,” the Nationals said in a statement.
Make sure you read what isn’t stated there — about another guy in Washington that the team did not choose to honor or call a true champion for our country.
But let’s put politics aside for now and watch some baseball.