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Baseball confronts COVID-19 pandemic

By Jayson Babcock, Westhampton Beach High School,
Laylah Ametewee, Centereach High School,
and Lycianne Pitts, New Explorations High School

Covid-19 shut down every major U.S. sport for four  months to limit the spread of the disease, until the New York Yankees visited the Washington Nationals on Thursday, July 23.

According to ESPN, the 2020 opening day game for Major League Baseball drew an average of 4 million viewers, making it the most popular opening day since 2011.

The Westhampton Beach High School Baseball Field sits empty. Games have been canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Jayson Babcock

This year, baseball commissioner Robert Manfred decided to resume play despite the risk of spreading COVID-19, and the players’ association and the owners agreed on a shortened 60-game season. 

The return of baseball was a major success. Ratings were the highest in the history of the sport. Players, coaches and staff were excited, and, most importantly, so were the fans. 

But this adrenaline rush of live sports came to a scorching halt on Sunday when the Miami Marlins reported on its website that 40 percent of the roster tested positive for coronavirus. 

Coaches Michael Smith (right) and Ava Grunenwald at baseball practice. Photo by Lucas Deverna

Michael Smith, a baseball coach for Westhampton Beach High School and former college pitcher, said, “You’ve seen the ripple effect of games having to be cancelled that aren’t even affiliated with the Marlins. It is a sport where for the most part, you are socially distant.”

Pamela Glayzer, a medical professional at Stony Brook Hospital, which has treated Covid-19 patients for months, has a different opinion.

“I really don’t think anyone should be playing sports right now, especially close contact,” she said. “The long-term effect of Covid-19 might have a lasting effect on sports players that could be career-ending.”

She also commented on the issue of whether athletes  should wear a mask while playing. “It depends on the sport,” Glayzer said. “If it is close contact, then masks should be worn. But if all the players are socially distanced, there is no need.”

Commissioner Manfred said in a statement that “I don’t put this in the nightmare category. It’s not a positive thing, but I don’t see it as a nightmare. That’s why we have the expanded rosters. That’s why we have the pool of additional players.” 

Since that statement, six more Miami Marlins players have tested positive for the virus, making it 60 percent of the roster.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo offered to host all 30 MLB teams for the 2020 season. “New York State could host any Major League Baseball game that any teams want to play and they could play those games in our stadiums,” Cuomo said in a coronavirus briefing.

Covid-19 not only affected the baseball players, but the fans as well. Once sports ended back in March, a lot of them began to watch reruns.

An empty dugout at Westhampton Beach High School. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic had forced many teams to cancel their seasons. Photo by Jayson Babcock

“Baseball is America’s pastime,” said Bill King, an avid baseball fan from Michigan. “A lot of people have memories of being kids and going to the ballparks with their dad or their parents, just having a good time eating a hot dog and watching the game.” 

King said he thinks “it should be up to the players if they want to wear a mask.”

He also called 2020 “a crazy year so far.”

“We haven’t had a pandemic like this in over 100 years, so I think everything is a new normal,” King said. “Everyone is figuring out their daily lives. Sports is just another part of that.”

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