The family gathering area in the lowest level of Nationals Park has a small green carpet, benches and a few apparatus for kids to be occupied with. Players leave the clubhouse double doors to head a few feet over and catch up right after games or after they shower and depart for the night.
Stealing time to spend with family during the baseball season is an ongoing complication. Even last season, when the team was riding such good mojo, allowing more family members on team flights was a point of debate between players and the organization.
Separation is not an issue --yet -- this year. Baseball's sudden stoppage has dumped all the players back into their houses when they would usually be at work 70 hours a week. For any couple who has to manage work-life balance, a sudden change in how things operate day-to-day is a jolt. Such is the case for the Zimmermans.
"It's definitely been interesting," Heather Zimmerman said. "It's great. I love having him here, obviously. But our entire relationship has been -- we started dating in 2010, so, baseball's been our sort of love triangle. And to have him here this much is just crazy. We don't do the daily breakfast, lunch, dinner together. He's here every night to put the girls to bed. It's great. Also, in this particular case I'm due with our third child in the beginning of June. For him to be here these last couple months while I'm kind of like waddling around and also chasing after children has been really nice. Not to mention, just with the concerns with the virus, I'm a little heightened as far as being worried about contracting it."
Ryan is making grocery store runs, bringing his two daughters, ages 6 and 3, outside to blow off energy, cooking dinner, doing laundry and other things that are generally "swept under the rug" because of the pace of baseball season.
He and Heather are watching and awaiting word on what might be next for the league. One of the keys in proposals floated thus far is isolation. Heather is due with the couple's third child in June. So, would she be comfortable with him leaving to play and gone for months with no access to each other?
"I would say probably no," Heather said. "I would not be 100 percent comfortable with it, especially considering we'll have a newborn in the house. But, it's one of those, I hate to say the word sacrifice, but one of those sacrifices you have to make in order for the game to be played.
"We have these conversations every day. We're so interested in seeing what ends up happening because obviously outside of the players, there's a lot of other staff that has to be at a baseball field: the grounds crew, chefs or food caterers, obviously the clubhouse staff. We're really interested to see when and if they can get this all going because there's so many moving parts. But, yeah, I'll be nervous. Chances are if it does start, and say they are just playing from Arizona or Florida and having to cut the travel side out of it, we're just probably not going to see him for a few months, I guess."
Heather laughed lightly at the last statement. But, when the Major League Baseball Players Association considers what to do next, the concept of what's happening at home becomes a pertinent discussion point. No fans at games? No access to families? What else will be restricted? And, ultimately, how much change would be worth it to have games?
For now, a set of hands not normally available is around all day.
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