The Yankees don’t have to look far to see the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of Monday afternoon, three players have tested positive for the novel coronavirus: DJ LeMahieu, Luis Cessa, and Aroldis Chapman. LeMahieu reportedly is asymptomatic, but Cessa and Chapman have presented with mild symptoms. All three are no-doubt major leaguers, with LeMahieu and Chapman two of the team’s most important contributors.
The virus has already hit close to home, but Clint Frazier wants to limit the damage. He’s wearing a face covering in the batter’s box to help stop spread.
“I’m just trying to show that it’s easy to do and it’s the right thing to do,” Frazier told Bryan Hoch on Sunday. “If it helps a little bit, it’s not hard to do, so I’m going to try to do it as much as I can. Hopefully someone sees it and maybe they do it, too.”
Frazier has the right attitude.
A recent study published in The Lancet, one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world, featured a meta-analysis of the literature regarding the transmission of SARS-Cov-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. The authors reviewed nearly 200 articles published up to May 3, 2020, and found that masks or face coverings helped limit person-to-person spread of the virus:
The findings of this systematic review of 172 studies (44 comparative studies; n=25697 patients) on COVID-19, SARS, and MERS provide the best available evidence that current policies of at least 1 m physical distancing are associated with a large reduction in infection, and distances of 2 m might be more effective. These data also suggest that wearing face masks protects people (both health-care workers and the general public) against infection by these coronaviruses, and that eye protection could confer additional benefit. However, none of these interventions afforded complete protection from infection, and their optimum role might need risk assessment and several contextual considerations.1
Masks help, and the more we normalize wearing them, the better of a job we will do in containing the outbreak. Athletes, with their immense platforms, and, for better or worse, their status as role models in American society, can wield that influence to encourage followers and fans to practice responsible behavior. Frazier has taken it on himself to lead by example, and that deserves commendation.
A little over a year ago, the press and fans on social media harangued Frazier for blowing-off a postgame interview, the same night he botched a handful of plays in the outfield. They then performed a close reading of how he took a full three days to report to the minor leagues after getting optioned, a right secured through collective bargaining. A sampling of the headlines around the time include:
Clint Frazier’s immaturity may cause the Yankees to trade him
Yankees ‘rolling their eyes’ at Clint Frazier for not publicly atoning for errors
Yankees’ Clint Frazier’s banishment to minors is about to end, but what’s his future?
Frazier appears to have had a target on his back since arriving in New York. In 2017, after his first spring training with the Yankees, the New York Post ran a story titled “Clint Frazier must grow up more before he can join the Yankees”.
Now, though, the 25-year-old stands out as arguably the most responsible player on the field. This shouldn’t surprise anyone who has followed Frazier’s path to the major leagues. He has a history of displaying maturity, generosity, and thoughtfulness beyond his age. His big personality can rub people the wrong way, but his actions on and off the field speak make him just as much a role model as, say, Aaron Judge.
The 2020 season might be a make-or-break year for Frazier, who owns a career .254/.308/.463 batting line with 16 home runs (100 wRC+). He has the potential to break out and follow the paths of late-bloomers like Josh Donaldson, or he can bounce around the league as a fourth outfielder.
Regardless of how the year plays out, he has already come out ahead. By wearing a mask in the batter’s box, he set an example the whole league can follow, demonstrating respect for his teammates, opponents, and everyone else on the field. He’s someone fans can be proud of, and as the pandemic rages on unchecked, that means a whole lot more than baseball.
- Derek K Chu et al., “Physical Distancing, Face Masks, and Eye Protection to Prevent Person-to-Person Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” The Lancet 395, no. 10242 (2020): pp. 1973-1987, https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(20)31142-9, 1982.