The few Nationals players and staffers who remain in West Palm Beach, Fla., are no longer allowed to use the club's spring training complex.
FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches has become a testing site for the coronavirus, according to Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, which has forced the 13 players and handful of staffers who had been utilizing the facility to stay in their respective homes and proceed with individual workouts and training on their own.
A clause in the working contract between the ballpark and its two spring training residents - the Nationals and Astros - allows for the facility to be taken over by Palm Beach County in cases of emergencies. Within the last few days, the Florida National Guard has begun setting up a testing station for local residents in one of the large, grass parking lots outside the stadium.
The lot is far removed from the actual stadium and both teams' clubhouses, but Rizzo said today during a conference call with reporters once Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered all non-essential businesses in the state closed, the Nationals informed their players and staff they could no longer use the facility.
"The location that is being utilized is far removed from all human contact that would be with players," Rizzo said. "But we felt that in an abundance of safety and precaution, we decided to lock down the facility, even for the players that were in rehabilitation mode."
Thirteen players, most of them already offseason residents of the area, remained in West Palm Beach to use the complex for unorganized workouts and medical and physical training. They're now left to do that on their own at home, though there are a couple of players rehabbing from injuries who will be allowed to get treatment at a still-to-be-determined off-site location.
"It's a very, very small list, and obviously the injuries a long time ago," Rizzo said. "It's not something that's of essential importance, and obviously the safety and the health of all the staff and all the players is paramount."
To date, no Nationals players have shown symptoms related to the coronavirus, so none have been tested for COVID-19, according to Rizzo.
Nationals Park also has been completely shut down, per the guidelines issued by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Three players who live year-round in the Washington area had been allowed to access the stadium for medical treatment.
All front office employees continue to work from home.
"There's a lot of things in the front office that we're still doing and utilizing our manpower to do it," Rizzo said. "We're working from home. We're on a lot of Zoom calls, both audio and video, as you would imagine, as the rest of the country is. We're kind of business as usual in these unique circumstances, other than we're not in the same place."
Per the recent agreement between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association, all clubs' rosters are currently frozen. Rizzo said the coaching staff is in regular contact with players about keeping themselves in shape and ready to go once spring training resumes.
With no way of knowing when that will actually occur, though, there's not much long-range planning that can take place at the moment.
"We're doing the best we can," Rizzo said. "We have a lot of unknowns. We continue to rely on the CDC, the World Health Organization and MLB as our resources. We are certainly going to follow their protocols and their recommendations to the letter. And as the commissioner recently said: When it's safe to play baseball, baseball will be back, and our fans will be back, and it will be part of the recovery process in the country. But safety and health is paramount."