#parent | #kids | Baseball and coronavirus: How MLB folks are handing their quarantine

I miss baseball, and I’m sure you do, too. 

In the grand scheme of life, the paused baseball season is a footnote. No doubt. This coronavirus situation has impacted so many lives around the globe, in very real and very tragic ways. But it’s OK to miss something that’s been such a big part of our lives every summer, a sport that’s helped create lasting memories and friendships.  

I knew I wasn’t alone in missing baseball, of course, so I reached out to people all across the sport — players, former players, writers, broadcasters and MLB front-office folks — with 10 quarantine-related questions and asked for their thoughts. 

The response was outstanding. Insightful. Funny. Profound. So many great answers, in fact, that I’m splitting this into two parts: Part I today, Part II next week. 

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Here’s our panel, for lack of a better word, linked to their Twitter pages: Kirby Yates (Padres closer), Luke Voit (Yankees first baseman), Grayson Greiner (Tigers catcher), Len Kasper (Cubs TV play-by-play), Billy Bean (MLB Vice President & Special Assistant to the Commissioner), Joe Davis (Dodgers TV play-by-play), Tyler Kepner (New York Times national baseball writer), Jay Jaffe (FanGraphs senior writer), Anne Rogers (MLB.com Cardinals beat writer), Jon Sciambi (ESPN broadcaster), Jordan Shusterman (Cespedes Family BBQ and host of ChangeUp on DAZN), F.P. Santangelo (Nationals TV analyst), Steve Physioc (Royals broadcaster), Todd Kalas (Astros TV play-by-play), Robert Ford, Astros radio play-by-play), Dillon T. Pickle (Portland Pickles mascot) and Ryan Spaeder (baseball author). 

Also, MLB Network host Kevin Millar’s full Quarantine Questionnaire is here.

A thousand thanks go out to all those who humored me by answering these questions. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading their responses, and I hope you do, too. 

How are you getting your baseball fix?

Voit: I have been working out consistently to stay ready. I have been keeping in touch with the guys on a daily basis, especially in our Madden league (which I am not very good at). I have also watched old games/movies that have been on to get my fix.

Jaffe: Mostly by staying in offseason mode and immersing myself in Hall of Fame stuff. I’m lucky that it’s an evergreen topic and that just about any time I choose to write about the Hall there’s a built-in audience. Other than that, right now I haven’t had a whole lot of time to go back and watch the classic games that are being shown, but I’ve tuned in to some KBO and CPBL games, and learned enough to write a bit about both. That’s been a lot of fun.

Sciambi: Limited … I’m doing a Wednesday night InstagramLive with Chipper Jones and doing a show called “Announcers On” along with Dave Sims where we talk to other broadcasters.

Kepner: I’m watching a lot of old games, like I do in the off-season, just to have play-by-play on in the background. I’m still reporting on baseball for the Times, and working on my next book. I’m playing catch a couple of times a week with my kids. I’ve read a few baseball books (“The Wax Pack” by Brad Balukjian, “Swing Kings” by Jared Diamond, and some older research books), and listened to some podcasts by my friends Josh Lewin, Sweeny Murti and Joe Davis and Orel Hershiser. I’m re-creating old World Series over Zoom with my dad, playing a dice baseball game he created for me when I was little. I’ve lost as the Phillies in 1983 (in 7 to the Orioles) and 1993 (in 4 to the Jays), and now I’m trying to close him out as the Big Red Machine in 1975. I have a 3-2 series lead heading back to Fenway for Game 6. I won’t let Eastwick pitch to Carbo if the situation arises.

Greiner: I am hitting every day, catching bullpens a couple days a week, and throwing every day. I am just trying to stay in a routine as much as possible during these times.

Shusterman: Three primary sources: 1. I watched the MLB The Show Players League, which was far more entertaining and enjoyable than I even imagined, and I had pretty high hopes for it. The competition was far from perfect (as the players amply complained about), but the commentary and live reactions were very fun to watch and I truly learned a lot about a bunch of players’ personalities, which was great. 2. The CPBL. Along with some of my closest college friends, I’ve been waking up fairly frequently to enjoy the Rakuten Monkeys absolutely dominate the first baseball league on Earth to start playing. A four-team league is bizarre, but it also makes it easier to recognize the players and learn about the teams more quickly. It’s awesome that there are English language broadcasts now. And 3. I’ve just been reading everything I can about the 2020 Draft prospects even though the Draft is probably gonna be way shorter than normal. But I’m a sucker for the Draft so I just enjoy cramming for that.  

Yates: I am still playing catch and trying to throw as many bullpens as I can. Other than that, I’ve watched a few games on MLB Network.

Physioc: I’m watching great games from Royals 2014-15 World Series seasons and memorable games on MLB. Still love watching Salvy hook that low and away slider down the left-field line to win the ’14 WC game.

Rogers: Lots of reading. I’m finishing up “The Iowa Baseball Confederacy” by W.P Kinsella, recommended to me by Post-Dispatch baseball writer Derrick Goold in spring training this year. I’m also making my way through Red Smith’s “On Baseball” and a variety of other baseball history books. Besides covering Cardinals news, we’re doing a lot of historical content on MLB.com, so that’s been the majority of my baseball fix, actually. It’s been fun diving into the organization’s history, along with the reading and plenty of YouTube videos that come along with it (if applicable). I tune into the classic games all over TV, too, like Albert Pujols’ first three-homer game on July 20, 2004. I’ve watched the 2006 NLCS and World Series, the 2011 World Series and a variety of other historic games, like the 20-strikeout games that aired on ESPN.

Davis: Reading books. Not all of them about baseball, but sprinkling a baseball book in every few. And I’ll occasionally watch a few minutes on MLB Network or SNLA.

Bean: The first thing I do when I wake up early in the morning is look for overnight emails or texts from the office, then I hit the MLB app, then tap the MLB Trade Rumors App, then zip through my Twitter notifications from the folks I follow. That gives me confidence that I’m in the loop. Once I’ve completed that morning ritual, I pour a cup of very strong coffee.

Dillon T. Pickle: Watching KBO, watching Pickles broadcasts from previous years (streaming every Friday on Pickles social media), and playing catch with Lil’ P (@GherkinBaseball).

Kalas: Getting my baseball fix like probably many other fans by watching a few replays of past games. Checked out the MLB Dream Bracket the other day with the Astros playing the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALDS. Disappointed to see the Bambino hit a 2-out eighth-inning HR vs. Keuchel to make it a 1-run game that the Yankees eventually won in 12 on Yogi’s walk off. I also have plenty of time to go down some deep wormholes online, with Baseball Reference and Baseball Savant being my main culprits.

Spaeder: It has been a daunting task — Twitter, which is the worst thing in the world, does help; YouTube videos; talking baseball with smart baseball people and some of the ballplayers I have been fortunate enough to meet; co-hosting The-Walk Off, my new podcast with Holden Kushner, hosted by BlueWire; and working on my third baseball book — plot twist: this one is NOT about statistics.

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What is something you’re surprised that you miss about baseball, or just being at the ballpark?

Yates: I think more than anything that I miss, I’m more surprised about how much my wife misses baseball.  

Santangelo: I miss it all, man. The ballpark is my happy place. My personal Disneyland. Not matter what’s going on outside of it, when I walk into a major-league ballpark every day, everything else goes away and I turn into a little kid, walking down Main Street USA at Disneyland.

Dillon T. Pickle: Little kids chasing and hitting me.

Rogers: My favorite thing to do is stand by the dugout railing and watch everything that goes on during batting practice, from the sound of the bat swatting baseballs to the fielding practice going on in the infield and outfield. When I don’t have a quick pregame deadline or anything, I try to spend a solid amount of time on the field during BP, chatting with people around me and watching what’s happening on the field. I didn’t think I’d miss it this much, but I definitely miss that feeling of standing on a baseball field when the weather is just right.

Jaffe: Right now I miss every single thing about baseball, even four-pitcher innings. I’d kill to be bored by a pitching change.

Sciambi: I miss the human interaction with everybody, from my partners — Chris Singleton, Rick Sutcliffe — to the producers, directors, audio guys, camera people, players, coaches. All of it. 

Voit: Camaraderie. Just being with the boys and hanging out. Also, the fan interaction is a big one for me, during BP and during the game. Definitely missing NYC a ton and am eager to get back there.

Ford: Not sure it’s surprising, but I miss all the people I see every day, in every city. Of course, I miss my fellow broadcasters, but I also miss the people who work on the TV broadcasts, the clubhouse attendants, the security guards, the beat writers and so many more. I even miss the people I don’t particularly care for, just because they are part of my day-to-day rhythm during the season.

Bean: I miss the structure of arriving at our MLB Offices, and though it’s no surprise, I miss my colleagues and working as a team to try and make baseball better every single day. I also miss the excitement of visiting our clubs, our amazing ballparks, the music, and seeing fans wearing their team colors and jerseys of their favorite players. The daily stories, the highs, the lows, the thrills, the conflicts, the controversies. … I knew I would miss all of it, but it’s way harder than I thought. 

Shusterman: I miss the routine of having games on every night (although Players League was a decent substitute in terms of having it on every night at the same time). Being at the ballpark is tough to replace, though — and honestly I don’t even miss being at a packed big league game as much as I wish I could go be at a Minor League or college game where there’s less going on and you can just sit close to a baseball field and enjoy a game.

Spaeder: Controversy. … the Astros did NOT act alone.

Physioc: Studying every day for the games. I miss talking to coaches and players about the greatest game in the world.

Kasper: Really it’s the people I miss. I realized how much time I spend at the park every day just chatting with people — players/managers/GMs/broadcasters/writers/et al. And social distancing does not exist in those situations, making our current world very foreign to me.

Davis: I don’t know if it surprises me that I miss it, but I definitely miss feeling the roar of the crowd. Truly feeling the environment.  

If you have kids, how are they handling this situation?   

Greiner: I have a 2-year-old son, and he is loving the time he gets to spend with me every day. He is a smart toddler, and he loves counting and saying his ABC’s every day for his mother and myself.

Kepner: I have four kids. They do their classwork, play outside, Zoom with their friends, play video games, read books, watch TV. Incredibly, I haven’t heard anyone complain about being bored. I guess it’s somewhat funny that I finally found a lineup to beat my son in NBA 2K20 on XBox. I go with a big man and four guys who are lethal from 3-point range. I need them to all look distinctive, so I know right away who is shooting. So I’ll have Kareem in the middle and then Curry, Bird, Mullin and Ray Allen to shoot threes. Also, importantly, he’s not allowed to pick anyone with a rating over 75. He usually still beats me, but I’ve won a few.

Yates: My kids are still young and don’t understand what’s going on. I haven’t had to leave them in a while, and I think they are getting used to me being home all the time. I get to spend more quality time with them and I love to see their growth. I think it’s funny to hear them say or do things that I have no idea where they learned it from.

Jaffe: Our 3 1/2-year-old misses her preschool classmates a lot, and there’s not a ton to be gained from remote classrooms other than reading stories together — she’s the youngest in her class and it’s tough to get her interested in doing, say, arts and crafts projects if nobody around her is, either. We’ve been playing with a lot of Lego, though, which is a gas, and we’ve gotten a little windowsill garden growing that has interested her. She’s had some breakthroughs in terms of her ability to get dressed by herself and to ride her little scooter, which is cool. She says some very funny stuff. One recent line that stands out: “I want to play tic-tac-toe with my nipples.” WTF?

Ford: My 9-year-old daughter told me today she’s “tired of breathing my air all the time” and frankly, I’m surprised it took her this long. She really has been a champ through all of this and has been great about getting her schoolwork done online.

Sciambi: No kids … babysitting a fish. Swimmy is still alive. 

Santangelo: I have two kids, F.P. Jr. is 25 and Summer is 22. They’ve been around the game since the day they were born and both miss it a lot. When my son was in third grade I got a call from his teacher that he was teaching all the kids swear words. I had to explain that he grew up in clubhouses with professional baseball players and that my old teammates used to teach him those words and thought it was funny! Told the teacher I’d let him know that the classroom is not the clubhouse. Hahaha. So yeah, they both miss it a ton. It’s in their blood.

Physioc: Both of our kids are grown, but we have three granddaughters who we FaceTime/Zoom/Caribu with just about every night. I still miss hugging them. Grandkids are the best!

Rogers: Don’t have kids, but my dog is absolutely loving all the walks he’s getting with my boyfriend and I both home all the time.

Davis: My kids aren’t quite old enough to totally understand what’s going on. But my almost 4-year-old daughter knows that all her normal activities — pre-school, ballet, soccer, going to the park, etc. — are off because “all the people are sick.” It’s sad, but less sad than if she was old enough to truly grasp what the world’s going through.

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And if you have kids, do you still have your sanity? If so, how?

(Quick note: I told the panelists that I was asking this question as the dad of a wonderfully energetic 20-month-old baby girl who is suddenly very picky at mealtime.)

Davis: Man, it’s crazy isn’t it? There. Are. No. Breaks. To help combat this problem, my wife and I have altered our workout plan. We used to work out together at 5 a.m., before the kids were up. But now, we stagger our workouts and use them as our respective 2-hour breaks from the kiddos. Definitely has helped break the days up, and helped us maintain our sanity. 

Yates: Yes, I have my sanity. Sometimes my kids try to take it from me but we’ve made it into a competition to see who can tire the other out first. When they lose, they end up napping and that’s a win for me because I can sneak a nap in with them.   

Greiner: I still have my sanity, but I would definitely agree that there is such thing as the “terrible twos.” For most hours of the day, he is so much fun to be around.

Jaffe: Man, it’s tough. With both my wife (Emma Span, managing editor of The Athletic MLB) and I hyper-attuned to the baseball news cycle, we have to negotiate who gets to work when, and the kid will try our patience at times. We’re pretty liberal with screen time — she has some reading and educational stuff she can do on the iPad during the day, and come 5 p.m., games or TV is an option while we get our exercise and make dinner. 

Kepner: If this were a decade ago, we’d really, really have our hands full. But now all the kids are between the ages of 12-18, so they’re mostly self-sufficient. More people are walking/jogging than usual, though, so the dogs bark a lot. That’s not good for my personal sanity.

Kasper: My college freshman son is home finishing the school year online and has been generally fine. I feel bad that he is missing the college social experience, but nothing we can do about it. Fortunately, our guy is pretty self-sufficient, although he still doesn’t do his own laundry when he’s home!

What shows have you watched/binged lately?

Sciambi: “Band of Brothers,” “Bosch,” “How to Fix a Drug Scandal,” “Cheer” 

Kasper: “The Last Dance” for sure. We went back and started “Ray Donovan,” which we had never seen. I have re-watched “Annie Hall” and “The Birds,” which is kind of random, but the mood just hit for whatever reason.

Kalas: My wife and I have gone through the “Tiger King” season because it seems like we would have been less than 10% of America who hadn’t seen it. Big Cat Rescue with Carole Baskin is also within a few miles of my home in Tampa and I’m glad they never staked her out on the Pinellas Trail where we ride our bikes. Also, we’ve caught up on the most recent season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” as it’s always been one of our favorites. My wife was into “Love Is Blind” and hooked me in, and finally we’re currently about 6 or 7 episodes into Season 1 of “Ozark.”

Dillon T. Pickle: Been watching a lot of “Veggie Tales” (big fan of Larry the Cucumber). Have also rewatched the “Rick and Morty” Pickle Rick episode 127 times so far.

Ford: I’m a big documentary guy. Of course I’ve watched “Tiger King” (every single one of them is nuts). I also finally worked my way through Ken Burns’ 10-part Jazz documentary, which is excellent. Also watched a really good Miles Davis documentary on Netflix. “The Inventor,” a documentary on Hulu about Elizabeth Holmes & the Theranos scandal is a great one as well.

Yates: I watched the new season of “Ozark” because I’ve watched the entire series. This last season was a good one. I watched “All-American” because it was a show my wife was bingeing. I watched “Tiger King” because I gave into the hype. I also watched “Narcos Mexico,” which was really good.

Voit: New season of “Ozark,” “Locke & Key,” “Man in the High Castle,” “The Witcher.” Rewatching “The Office” — it still makes me laugh every time.  

Shusterman: Two main ones right now are trying to catch up on “Better Call Saul” before it gets ruined for me and rewatching “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which has been extremely enjoyable.

Santangelo: “Ozark.” Best show since “The Sopranos,” and “Zero Zero Zero” on Amazon Prime. Close second

Rogers: We just finished watching “Criminal Minds” (the 12 seasons on Netflix). What a journey that was. Tried watching “Tiger King,” but it wasn’t for me. My favorites to rewatch are “Parks & Rec” and “New Girl” because both are incredibly hilarious and I’ve watched them so many times I can put on any episode to watch while I’m doing other things around the house. Highly recommend.

Greiner: My wife and I binged “Tiger King” when it first came out, and I have recently gotten into the show “Dexter,” and have enjoyed it so far.

Jaffe: We don’t binge so much as keep a small handful of shows in a rotation where we watch them about once a week. Currently catching up on “Billions,” rewatching “Justified” from the beginning, just started new seasons of “Killing Eve” and “What We Do in the Shadows,” checking out a new HBO series called “Run.” Will miss “Better Call Saul,” already miss “Avenue 5,” though that one was a bit on-the-nose given our current state. I’m also flying solo through “Altered Carbon,” watched mostly while Emma is walking the dog late at night. 

Spaeder: I am so sick of television and movies, I don’t know how it seems that I have seen everything — yet I watch so little. Season 3 of “Ozark” was incredible, though. I also enjoyed “The Invisible Man,” I really enjoy Leigh Whannell’s films … if anyone has any recommendations, send them my way. I am struggling, and I have not turned my television on in three days for fear of wasting time browsing.

Kepner: I rewatched the first two seasons of “24,” which is always fun and suspenseful. Tried to get into “Tiger King” but gave up after two or three episodes. Then I watched “McMillions” and now I’ve finally, at long last, started “The Wire.” I’m into Season 2 and I’m hooked.

Physioc: My wife and I have watched “The Kominsky Method,” “Outlander,” and the 2014 Playoffs. I had not seen the 2014 Postseason in some time.

Bean: I binged “Ozark” and “Homeland.” For some reason, I can’t turn off reruns of “Mike & Molly” or “Law & Order SVU.”

Let’s pretend it’s 2025. What are you going to remember most about this past month or so?

Kasper: Being in the middle of it, it’s very difficult to play the “what this looks like as history” game. I am a history buff and how things are presented after the fact almost always is slightly off the mark of what it was like to ACTUALLY endure it. I would say the horrific fatality numbers will unfortunately be the headline as time moves on. I don’t like seeing the increasing numbers every day as it is and I can’t wrap my head around it in real time. Given the distance of time, whatever the number is ultimately will really hit home later. Feels like our defense mechanisms right now are making us a bit numb to the horrific reality.

Shusterman: Just how quickly it all happened. I don’t think I’ll remember all that much of the time in isolation because it all runs together, but the days leading up the shutdown are very vivid to me, just because it was around my birthday (March 10) and I was in Florida to see some Spring Training and some college games. I was at Rays camp the morning of March 10 — 48 hours later everything was shut down. Those few days were truly surreal.

Physioc: I’ll remember the kindness of Kansas City. The way people lived by the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. The awareness of others, the discipline of social distancing, wearing masks at the grocery stores … people were genuinely aware of each other’s health and safety. We’ll get through this because at the core of who we are is goodness.

Sciambi: How eerie NYC was/is … the calm and quiet is like a blizzard without the snow, but interrupted by sirens.

Jaffe: Given the way memory works, and the ability to let the mundane stuff blur together, what I’ll hope to remember from this is all of the hours I spent with my daughter, and the good times of making her laugh, watching her learn new things. The tangible advancements in what she’s capable of, the growth of her vocabulary and understanding … and the chance to show her how much I love her. Likewise with my wife — I lucked out when it came to finding a perfect pandemic partner. We just celebrated both our five-year wedding anniversary and our 10-year relationship anniversary. 10-and-5 rights, can’t be traded now!

Yates: I’m going to remember how odd this situation was and how the experience helped me appreciate what I have.

Voit: Realize how much I am missing baseball and love the game and everything that goes with it. Enjoying extra time at home with family and enjoying things we don’t normally get to do.

Greiner: I don’t think anybody will ever forget this year and situation. I will vividly remember the last day of Spring Training when nobody knew what was going to happen going forward and just the complete helpless feeling that we had never felt before.

Spaeder: Getting out of the military — it was quite possibly the worst time to do so; fortunately, I had a contract to start a new full-time job well in advance, and I am among those lucky enough to be able to work from home. My vision for my end of active service was to take some time off and tour various ballparks and meet, in person, some of the great baseball people I have come across over the years. That did not work out, but we adapt, and we overcome. Things did not go my way, but I recognize that I am not in a helpless situation, and I am grateful.

Kepner: I doubt I’ll ever have this much concentrated time with all 4 kids again. But I think I’ll just remember the uncertainty, the feeling that the whole world is basically just on pause with no date to shoot for and no idea what really comes next. It’s an unsettling feeling but I try not to dwell on it.

Bean: I think this time will always represent when “entitlement” went away forever. The expectation of baseball always being available to us has forever changed. We are so accustomed to one click of the remote bringing highlights on TV, as well as sportscasters talking about players, divisional races, roster moves, trades, and signings. I’ve always loved baseball, first as a young fan, then as a player all the way until I reached the Majors. However, I was part of the labor dispute in 1994, and it painfully taught me how much I appreciated our sport, and the privilege of playing. It broke my heart to be away from the game for so long, especially at such a pivotal time in my career. Time healed many of those memories, but they all returned quickly this past March. The world’s perspective of many things will change after this pandemic is over. I can’t wait to see how this learning experience will shape many of the things we took for granted. I believe baseball will be even more meaningful to us than it was before 2020.

Dillon T. Pickle: How annoying Lil’ P can be, and how much I missed Pickles fans.

Rogers: I think just the uncertainty of everything. I’ll be going about my day, working on a story or a project, and then I’ll remember, “Wow, baseball is literally on hold and we don’t know when it’s going to return.” It’s a strange feeling. I also probably will never take for granted live sports again. This hiatus has really shown me how much I — and many, many other people — take solace in watching a game on TV, or going to a sporting event, etc. I may have underestimated the power that sports bring the world. That’s probably what I’ll remember the most once this is all done.

Davis: As awful a time it is for our world, I know I’ll look back fondly on the bonus family time we got to enjoy.  

Ford: I’ll remember the home projects I’ve finished, the books I’ve read, the documentaries I’ve watched, & I’ll lament never having this type of free time ever again.


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