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Delaying Opening Day is heartbreaking, but necessary

In a time of sadness without our beloved sport, it’s important to maintain perspective.

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees

I’m sure I’m joined by many when I say that this is something I have never experienced in my life. Watching a global pandemic unfold has been jarring, and the loss of all sports, my great escape, the handful of hours in the day where I seem to shed any lingering thoughts of uneasiness, makes this even more difficult to deal with.

The excitement for Opening Day was building with each passing 24 hours. The countdowns posted on Twitter, usually using the back of a famous player’s jersey to illustrate just how close we were, always seemed to give me a burst of energy. Yesterday morning, I saw this one, and man, this sucks.

Even with each passing Yankees injury, I couldn’t wait for Opening Day. I couldn’t wait to plop myself in my own personal cave, armed with two televisions and an subscription, and enjoy the return of baseball. Who knows when that opportunity will finally arrive. But it’s important to differentiate that while I’m incredibly sad that my greatest hobby (and all of its counterparts) will be impossible to enjoy for the coming weeks (months?), I also completely understand the necessity to implement these drastic measures, and people’s distress regarding the lack of baseball shouldn’t be directed at those who made the decision.

What happened in the basketball world on Wednesday night was scary. A prominent NBA player tested positive for COVID-19 (and another prominent teammate did as well soon after), after the team had played in multiple arenas across the country in the past week, and shared locker rooms with other visiting basketball and hockey teams. What’s more, both players felt good enough that they could have played on Wednesday.

You get the idea of how quickly this could spread, through a sports league and all the people that surround the production of that league. In the baseball world alone, in one quick exchange, we have a pitcher, catcher, umpire, and a number of possible fielders sharing a baseball, while pitchers like Aroldis Chapman lick their fingers in between every pitch. Then we have foul balls going into the stands, where any unlucky spectator could pick up a ball through a crowd of swarming counterparts, and, well, you see where this is going. You have reporters, camera crews, training staff, hundreds and thousands of people that interact with players and others on a daily basis. This virus could spread rapidly, and playing in empty ballparks wouldn’t diminish the risk of spreading it between players and other personnel enough to warrant play to continue.

I hate this, but I understand it. I hope everybody else does too. It’s so important for me to set aside my own selfish desires, which boil down to the simple fact that I just want to kick my feet up and watch a ballgame. I want to take that walk up to Yankee Stadium and hear the rumble of the subway arriving, then step inside and hear the organ and the cracks of batting practice. For now, we don’t have that luxury. Maybe when it returns, it will be appreciated even more. But today, what can be appreciated is that MLB, and other pro sports, played some role in preventing this virus from spreading even more rapidly. It sucks, and it had to happen.