Where just last week there was baseball, glorious baseball, is now a ghost park.
Listen close, you could imagine the echoes of Charlie Blackmon slugging doubles in BP, Jon Gray thumping a catcher’s mitt in a bullpen session, Nolan Arenado and Rockies brass not having a conversation.
(Oh, what we’d do for some Arenado vs. Rox front office drama right about now.)
But for Saturday, Sunday and the foreseeable future, Salt River Fields, the gorgeous spring training home of the Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks, was all but shut down.
“We don’t know how long this is going to be,” manager Bud Black said.
One month? Three? Major League Baseball’s opening day was supposed to be March 26, but it’s been delayed two weeks. Hard to imagine, even impossible, starting the season in mid-April with novel coronavirus news developing hourly.
One ESPN report said Japan’s schedule was put off roughly 10 weeks, for example, which would put MLB on track for a mid-to-late-May first pitch. Speculation aside, a second round of spring training is ahead. Jeff Bridich, the Rox general manager, said the minor league season could start “at the very earliest” 45 days from last weekend. Minor league players and staff were sent home from Salt River Fields, while the big leaguers were afforded three options: stay in Arizona, return to Colorado or cruise off to their hometowns. The Rox expect most players would choose to remain in the Scottsdale area. There, it’s a scene that looks more like a December or January setup during a normal preseason.
“This entire thing is unprecedented,” said Bridich, who added MLB is taking cues from the NBA, NFL and NHL and vice versa. “There’s no blueprint for how everything should go. We’re going to continue taking things by a day-by-day basis.”
The GM said that, to his knowledge, no one around the training facility had tested positive for COVID-19. So that’s a plus. During a 90-minute meeting Friday at Salt River Fields, players and staff were informed of the necessary precautions that should be taken at this strange time. Wash your hands. Practice social distancing. Use common sense.
”Honestly, to this point, knock on wood, this has been one of our healthier spring trainings that way,” Bridich said.
Will it be Gray or German Marquez as the opening day starter vs. Manny Machado’s Padres? Will the David Dahl-batting-leadoff experiment grow roots? Are trash cans banned from MLB dugouts, or only in Houston? Standby.
“It’s a lot of questions, a lot of seeking any sort of wisdom or knowledge that anyone might have about this. Literally nobody in our organization, or any organization, has ever been through anything like this,” Bridich said. “Everybody’s just trying to use as much common sense as they can. There is no sense of panic. I can say that.”
(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at email@example.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)