baseball

My Opt Out Of The 2020 Baseball Season Press Box And Reasons Why

Where am I this Friday? Home and safe and opting out from covering baseball for the first time in 21 years at the ballparks. No watching batting practice from the dugouts, no chats with colleagues, no press box or clubhouse.

And no interaction with players, managers, or personnel on the field or in the clubhouse. 

So when I received the notifications from editors, including here at thenyextra.com, the response was I am opting to stay away. Yes, It hurts but accepted as MLB teams commenced Summer training at their home ballparks for the hopeful start of a truncated 2020 season in three weeks. 

It may not matter to many about my situation, but this is my job. Six or seven months of a routine that never has a dull moment. 

But, on this end, it has been accepted about being away from a routine because protocols set forth for the media are strict. MLB and teams are being cautious about a coronavirus that has increased with intensity. 

New York, for now, is safe. Though precautions of distancing, washing hands, and wearing that face mask is a must and strongly urged from the medical and political community.

They say, better safe than ever. Players are also cautious and with more than one there is a  concern about where this is headed. They are getting tested, separated from teammates, and there are different workout schedules. 

 MLB hopes to see those dates of July 23 and 24, and without a cluster of positive COVID-19 cases. They hope to finish a season without another disruption or possible shutdown. Anything is possible between now and then.

Anything is possible, as they say, hoping to play out this 60-game sprint and head to a possible October postseason. 

 However, this writer has opted to stay home. It has to do with being cautious, and a limited amount of media that will get access to the press box on a day-by-day basis. 

So, the Mets and Yankees and 28 other teams delivered their protocols about access and covering training 2-0, as it has been labeled. It is a hit or a miss, and 35 of those fortunate get the opportunity to sit up in the press box and view players and coaches going through the drills.

Now, don’t get me wrong because sitting in a baseball press box is the best view. The green grass, angles of the ballpark. There are those advantages of sitting up there. TV monitors, access to information, and talking with colleagues about baseball and a little of everything.

We are in a struggling industry since the outbreak of COVID-19. The basics of sports journalism has changed and many have lost their jobs. Thankfully those editors that keep me on board provided the choice. 

I opted to stay home.  I can work from home. I can watch feeds that are provided, information sent,  use zoom for the interviews of managers and players.  I can monitor what is developing at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium and be safe at home.

I don’t have to wear a protective face covering at home. I would have to do that sitting in a press box for two or three hours, stay distanced from colleagues and get a temperature check upon press gate entry.

No roaming in the press box, pack the bag with food and distributed bottle water that would be available in the press box area.

As one veteran player said to me this week, “You have the choice to stay home and get paid.  I really can’t  sit this out with service time, though I don’t know how this is going to work.”

He is away from family. There is a concern about isolation in the event more than one player is tested positive. There is a concern regarding  the safety and well being of players and personnel, though, the strict and efficient MLB medical protocols seem to be effective,

Remember, this is unchartered territory also for the media. But, back to the issue here and it’s not about the ego of covering baseball.  Why has this writer decided to opt out?

Here are some of the media protocols set forth by MLB and with the Mets and Yankees:

  • Upon entry a daily screening process of temperature checks and questionnaire. Any temperature above the normal denies entrance with a chance to be checked again. ( Good and necessary)
  • Members of the media are required to wear masks at all times (Precaution and could be uncomfortable for long period of time)
  • Members of the media must adhere to social distancing measures (Necessary but that is difficult for media to not communicate within their small fraternity and a laptop or texting with each other is not the behavior pattern with exception of social media posting.)
  • Entry to press box level is encouraged by taking stairs as one person per elevator car. ( Good to take stairs for exercise and have no complaints)
  • Seats in the press box are six feet apart from each other to maintain proper social distancing guidelines. (Again, good and bad because media members enjoy interacting with each other)

And then there are these restrictions which caused more reason to opt out. 

Members of the media are prohibited from entering the clubhouse or accessing the playing field. These restrictions were put in place by MLB to ensure the health and safety of players , staff, and all media. 

All players, managers, coach and player interviews are conducted via Zoom video conferencing.  All good to ensure safety, but this old school guy is still learning how to access Zoom and other video conferencing calls. 

In a nutshell, with access restricted to the press box and your laptop, this is not the best way to cover baseball at the ballpark. In other words go with the plan or stay home.

You see, a major part of covering this great game of baseball is that ability to interact with the managers, players, coaches, personnel. Your colleagues also become a part of your fraternity. A good many of your features and content come from that interaction on the field before a game and in the clubhouse.

A player or manager says something and that becomes your storyline for the day or night. A colleague or a scout is nearby and the conversation becomes a storyline.

Zoom conference calling is a convenience for those who want to make that trip to the ballpark. But viewing this Summer camp from the press box, and ordered to leave the ballpark an hour after conclusion is not journalism and covering the game.

And these same conditions should be in effect, if and when the Opening Day of the season plan goes forward. This resurgence of the Coronavirus in other areas of the country could cause an eventual disruption and closure of the 2020 season.

But for this writer it’s not worth the trip. Sitting and being restricted to a press box seat on a day-by-day basis is not a way to do the job. I can sit at home, eat a meal, and move at my desire. I can Zoom like they will do up in the press box.

You wonder why MLB implemented their own plan. We know, it’s all about the huge revenue and economics with those lucrative network television contracts.  But to their credit they have tried to appease the media.

Yes, I have decided to opt out on what has become a 2020 baseball season that will be remembered, and will do my best to inform from the comforts of my home.

 But we have seen that many are accustomed to working at home and that could be the new norm.

 If we get to Opening Day or beyond then all of these media protocols will be another story.

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

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