The Orioles aren’t able to start their season due to the coronavirus and they have no idea whether it’s going to unfold. In the meantime, players are working to stay in shape, just in case, and finding ways to assist people in need and to ease the strain on their lives.
First baseman Chris Davis and his wife, Jill, donated breakfast to the staff at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital on the morning of March 26, which would have been opening day. The couple made a $3 million donation in November, the largest charitable gift from a Baltimore sports figure.
Reliever Richard Bleier arranged this week for lunch to be catered to the emergency room staff at Wellington Regional Medical Center in South Florida.
“A small gesture compared to what they are doing on a daily basis,” Bleier wrote in an Instagram post.
“We will all get through this together (six feet away from each other of course.)”
Bleier appreciates the sacrifices that essential workers are making during this crisis and wanted to do something to show it.
“It’s just a small gesture that hopefully helped the workers get through such tough times obviously for everyone, but they’re just on the front lines,” he said yesterday. “For us, we’re at home. OK, not ideal, but still playing safe. They’re the ones that are getting all the sick people, so they’re exposed to this every single day, which is admirable and I appreciate everything they’re doing and the fact that they’re working crazy hours and working really hard trying to get people healthy.
“A nice meal, it’s just something small, really. I wish there was more I could do, but it’s better than nothing.”
Bleier is working out at his West Palm Beach home and getting quality time with his daughter, Murphy, who’s only 11 weeks old, that he didn’t know would become available to him.
“Days are not typical. It just depends on her and how she’s doing,” he said.
“We’re spending time together. We go for walks. And I try to do as much baseball stuff as I can, depending on what I have planned for the day throwing-wise and exercising-wise. I’ve been running every single day just to try to stay in shape and throwing pretty much every single day. I have a mound set up now, so I’ve been throwing bullpens, too, a couple times a week. Just trying to maintain as much as possible where I was at at the end of spring training there.”
The Orioles are keeping players unified and informed through group messaging and the pitchers have their own chats to discuss their individualized programs “and trying to hold each other accountable,” Bleier said.
“Just try to stay engaged with one another and make sure that we’re all still going to be ready to go if and when we need to be ready to go.”
Major League Baseball won’t reopen for business until travel and mass gathering restrictions are lifted and it’s deemed safe.
“The good thing is everyone is willing to be flexible on scheduling,” Bleier said. “The players are willing to play doubleheaders and the owners are willing to do doubleheaders and we’re both willing to play deeper into the fall there, through October. I think we want to play and we want to do as much as we can and play a competitive season when the time is right, which obviously it doesn’t look like it’s anywhere near right now. We’re just going to ride the storm and stay ready until things subside a little bit, which hopefully they do, and then we can get back to worrying about baseball and stuff.
“The last thing obviously we want to do is, ‘OK, we’re ready to play,’ and get 30,000 people in the same building and then there’s a resurgence of this. I think everyone’s aware of that, so we’re going to have to make sure that it’s a good idea to start playing baseball again. Obviously, it’s not a priority. There’s more important things than playing games.”
Davis is the Orioles’ player representative and he’s been passing along updates to teammates that he’s obtained in conference calls.
What message does Davis want to share with fans during the shutdown?
“I want them to know that we’re working hard, we’re doing everything we can to stay ready, to stay in shape and to stay focused on our goals, and I want them to know that they’re not alone,” he said.
“We’re going through the same thing, and I think that’s one thing that you could look at and really draw some encouragement from is, you’re not going through this situation by yourself. We all are kind of battling right now, we’re all trying to figure out what it looks like months down the road, weeks down the road, even days down the road. But just know that we’re thinking about you guys, we care about you all and we’ll be back as soon as we possibly can and we’re looking forward to it.”
With the Ed Smith Stadium complex closed, they’d get in workouts at a field in Manatee County as a convenient alternative. They took batting practice and did some throwing and defensive drills to stay sharp.
Now that he’s back in Jacksonville, Hays said he’s relying on friends to let him use their home gyms. Garage weights are better than nothing.
“If worse comes to worse and I can’t find a facility to use, at least I know that I can run on my own, and if I need to lift weights and train, I can go and do that with them,” Hays said this week on MLB Network Radio.
“I’ve been fortunate to play with a lot of people over the years that are still in baseball, so I have a few options of places I can go to continue to train and just try to stay in shape until the season gets rolling again.”
Hays said he’ll seek out pitchers that he can face to simulate batting practice, whether they’re in college or are professionals.
“I’ll do whatever I have to do to try to bump up the competitiveness,” he said.
Hays has to work through the emotional letdown of going from starting center fielder to idle player. He’s been able to stay healthy, but can’t get in a lineup.
“It’s really tough,” he said. “I was really excited for the season. I was feeling really good in spring training. I felt like I was starting to get in sync and things were starting to get rolling. We were only two weeks out and then all of a sudden you’re back in November again. So just kind of trying to play mind games with myself instead of thinking ‘what if, what could I be doing right now?’
“Just looking at it from the aspect of, May 15 is the earliest that we can get it rolling again, even just spring training games, so whatever I was doing in December this offseason, that’s what I’m going to go back to doing because that’s about the timeframe we’re in right now.
“Once I kind of took that perspective on things and was able to play a couple mind games on myself, kind of got me back into that routine again of what I was doing in December.”
* Ed Farmer, who appeared in 370 major league games over 11 seasons, passed away on Wednesday. He was 70.
Farmer, a Chicago native, was set to begin his 29th season as a broadcaster for his hometown White Sox. He’s remembered for making the All-Star team with them in 1980, when he registered 30 saves to establish a club record.
Most Orioles fans probably forgot that Farmer made one relief appearance with the team in 1977. He allowed one run in Game 2 of a Sept. 7 doubleheader in Detroit, didn’t record an out and was released.
Primarily a reliever during his career, Farmer made 24 starts with Triple-A Rochester in ‘77 and went 11-5 with a 4.47 ERA and 1.649 WHIP.
Farmer also was an advance scout with the Orioles from 1988-90 under general manager Roland Hemond.
Former Orioles pitcher and current MASN broadcaster Ben McDonald offered his sympathies in a tweet:
“My heart is broken...I called him Uncle Ed...a man who taught me so much on and off the field as well as broadcasting. Drafted me out of college when he was with the @Orioles and always enjoyed our talks when we played the @whitesox...Uncle Ed..RIP... I love you! #SaltOfTheEarth”