Cubs’ Jed Hoyer on added COVID-19 challenge of spring: ‘It’s a concern’

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Gordon Wittenmyer
·4 min read
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Hoyer on added COVID-19 challenge of spring: ‘It’s a concern’ originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

No such thing as too much information when it comes to preventing COVID-19 infections?

“Well, if you’d been on the Zoom two minutes before, you could have seen me spitting in a vial,” Cubs president Jed Hoyer said Monday.

Check that.

Maybe we can agree there’s no such thing as too much useful information when it comes to preventing COVID-19 infections?

If that’s the case, the Cubs and 29 other big-league teams are operating at a significant deficit as they prepare to open spring training camps across Florida and Arizona next week.

“I’m assuming the protocols are going to be — and I hope they are — really strict when [players formally report for camp]," Hoyer said on a Zoom with media Monday. "Arizona is a hot spot. And the numbers [of players and non-playing personnel] are going to be high.

“What I don’t have any feel for at this moment is how they’re going to organize workouts,” Hoyer added of the safety protocols that Major League Baseball ultimately will require. “Are they going to tell us we have to do things in pods? Are they going to tell us we can work out normally?”

Not to mention: How much spit will be required for various vials on a weekly or even daily basis?

For now, Hoyer — who already was at the team’s facility in Arizona on Monday — said about 10 pitchers and 10 hitters have shown up for early work, and the team is running the facility a lot like it did in March when camps were shut down and the 2020 season delayed.

That means on-site distancing and other safety measures, capacity limits for workout spaces and sign-in sheets for anyone using the premises. Hoyer said those at the facility now are being tested multiple times a week.

While it’s tempting to assume that MLB’s lone team without a positive coronavirus test among its players during the three months from summer camp through the 2020 season should be able to handle Round 2 this spring with ease, a long list of challenges are thrown into the mix this time around.

The biggest might be the much larger number of players and staff (about 150) to keep safe in the same space.

Their living spaces also are spread to wider points off site than during the summer — including permanent residences in many cases — in a region with far higher rates of the deadly virus than last summer in Chicago and than many other parts of the country even now.

“It’s a concern,” Hoyer said.

And this: Among the few specifics the Cubs have so far is that the team just got approval from local authorities to have 25-percent capacity attendance for spring training games (roughly 3,000 per game), according to team spokesman Julian Green.

This barely two weeks after local authorities requested a monthlong delay to spring training and Cactus League games over coronavirus concerns in the hot-spot region (albeit, reportedly a request encouraged by MLB owners, who would financially benefit from a delay).

At the very least, mixed messaging doesn’t figure to help teams prepare for the potentially daunting task of keeping thousands of players and staff across baseball — and, in turn, their families — safe this spring from a virus that has killed more than 460,000 Americans in the last 11 months.

Not to mention keeping the spring and subsequent season going once it starts.

“Is it going to be a lot more difficult than it was during the season last year? Absolutely,” Hoyer said. “Our [personnel] numbers last year were so much lower than they’re going to be in spring, and we have real challenges ahead. And it is a concern.

“You can’t plan for getting stopped [in mid-camp],” he added. You have to react when and if it does happen, and hopefully we can avoid it.

“But it would be kind of crazy not to have that in the back of your head that we’re going to bring a lot more people into a place that has a lot of COVID cases and not have some issues, and that we’ll have to think about how to get through that.”

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