March 12 is the line of demarcation. It's the last time Major League Baseball teams were on the field in 2020 before everything stopped. Even then, warnings about mass gatherings were beginning to percolate, including in Florida.
The Nationals were among the last teams off the field at spring training. More than 8,000 people came to watch their final game against the New York Yankees. One person, Sean Doolittle's wife, Eireann Dolan, sent out a plea before the game asking fans to stay home.
"I'm probably not supposed to say this, but people I beg of you please do not come to games right now. I know they're still inexplicably playing them right now, but that doesn't mean it's safe to attend. You're putting yourselves, the staffs, and teams at risk. Please don't go."
Dolan followed up a few minutes later.
"As long as fans keep coming, teams will try to keep playing. As long as teams keep playing, fans will try to keep coming. I trust MLB will soon make the right decision to protect the public, but until then please don't attend."
She is a guest Tuesday (10 p.m.) on HBO's Real Sports, which is airing a segment about "about how sports leagues domestically and overseas played a role in the spread of COVID-19." Dolan has a chronic lung condition. Her acute asthma manifests more often as viral pneumonia than an asthma attack. So, what starts as a cold or flu upper respiratory infection is more likely to become lower respiratory pneumonia. She has been hospitalized for it for extended periods on oxygen since she was nine years old. In addition, one of the prescription medications she has to take creates more ACE 2 receptors in the respiratory tract, which essentially creates more "doors" for virus to enter the lungs.
She said she was scared for weeks the virus may be acquired by someone associated with the Nationals, then would blow through everyone in the facility and be transferred to Doolittle.
"Every day I'm holding my breath and wondering who is he going near, what fans, what staff, what players, and I thought if one person gets it, God forbid, we will have it within a week," Dolan told Real Sports. "All of us."
Dolan considered the relationship between her husband and the organization and league which pays him before sending the tweet.
"I opened (on Twitter) by saying, ‘I'm probably not supposed to say this,'" Dolan told Real Sports. "My fear in saying it is I'm undermining my husband's employer. So, yeah, it felt very risky to say that. But, I'd had it with waiting."
Dolan's comments on the show echo a growing sentiment. Asked last week if she would be comfortable with her husband going back to play, Ryan Zimmerman's wife, Heather, said she would not.
"I would not be 100 percent comfortable with it, especially considering we'll have a newborn in the house," Heather Zimmerman said. "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."
Concerns among family are going to be one of the factors moving forward. The Major League Baseball Players Association and the league will have to come to a new agreement about how, when and how much to play once clearance is granted. Feedback on all fronts will matter when trying to reach that pact.
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