Players stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic are adapting to life away from baseball. A shock to the system.
They’ve been playing the sport since they were kids. For fun and later as a profession. Their body clocks are wired to it.
The shutdown can challenge them both mentally and physically.
“It just reminds me of a lockout or a strike, but with more consequences,” said former outfielder Eric Davis, in his 12th season as a Reds special assistant.
“When you have a lockout or a strike, there aren’t any deadly consequences.”
Former Orioles first baseman Boog Powell is back at his Key West, Fla., home - not a bad location for a quarantine.
“Just trying to stay healthy and not do anything stupid,” he said.
“It’s really something. I’ve experienced a lot of things in my life, but nothing like this. I’m in the house that we built in ‘78 down here. My son, J.W., came down right after we left spring training, after they called it off, and he came down here and spent a couple weeks with me, but he’s back home with his family in Ocala. And the road down here to the Florida Keys, U.S. 1, is shut down to tourist traffic, so if you don’t live down here you can’t get here. Which is a good thing.”
The baseball reflexes are the same, whether Powell is playing or serving his barbeque on Eutaw Street.
“I wake up and say, ‘Well, I’ve got to get ready and go to the ballpark. Oops, not today,’ ” he said.
“I did that for about two months after the Dodgers released me in ‘77. We drove back across the country and I’d get up every morning and say, ‘Well, I’ve got to get ready to go to the ballpark.’ And all of a sudden, ‘Oops. No more games.’ “
Powell had the same experiences in 1972 during the first players’ strike, which lasted from April 1-13. And he headed back to the same location.
“I took off,” he said. “I came down to Key West. I went fishing. I was living in Miami and I said, ‘The hell with it. I’m not staying here. I’m going to go down and hang out with my buddies in Key West.’ Took my kids down here and hung out with them.
“I did my running every day. I didn’t hit or throw or do anything else. I just did my running and that was about it. And all of a sudden, here we go.”
The Orioles were training in Miami, where Powell’s house was built five years earlier.
“That was one of the greatest things I ever did,” he said. “I get to stay home for another month for spring training. But the money’s a little bit different now than it was then. I had to scuffle a little bit. I was probably making about $20,000.”
Powell is living comfortably these days, though he’s unable to work his stand at Camden Yards or the one that he opened with his son at Ed Smith Stadium.
“It’s not awful,” he said. “My agreement that I have is with the Orioles and Delaware North, they don’t have too much to do with me and the Orioles have been treating me pretty good. Everything’s just the same. I wasn’t doing that much before anyway. But I was doing my thing out on the street every night.
“As far as actual food prep and getting ready and doing all that stuff, I’ve got my girl, Annie O’Brien. She’s been with me for 25 years. She lives on a house boat down on the Inner Harbor. She’s been scrubbing her deck every day. I told her, ‘You’ve got the cleanest boat in town.’
“We’re just sort of at loose ends at what to do. I go to the grocery store about twice a week. Hopefully have enough supplies so I don’t have to make too many trips out. Put my mask on and go down there. I’ve got friends that are in the restaurant business down here who are really scuffling right now. Especially one of my real good friends who sells fish sandwiches and stuff like that.
“Commercial fishermen aren’t going out. You can’t buy hardly any fresh fish and he sells only fresh fish sandwiches. He’s doing whatever he can do now. I even took him some fish. When J.W. was down here we went out fishing. We had some surplus and we took him eight or 10 pounds of fillets. He’s paying about $20 a pound when he can find fresh fish. It’s hard to make a living when you’re doing that.”
Powell visited the Orioles clubhouse prior to the March 12 shutdown, but never got the chance to talk to Trey Mancini after the outfielder’s colon cancer diagnosis.
“Trey came by me like, ‘Oh, man,’ and he went right into the manager’s office,” said Powell, who underwent the same surgery in 1997.
“I’ve always had a good relationship with him and we smile and talk and pass the time of day and all that. I know his mother (Beth) pretty well because she grew up with Annie, my girl that runs Boog’s out on the street. I called Beth and I talked to her when I found out about it.
“It seems like from everything I’ve read and heard that he’s in good spirits and mentally he’s doing good.”