We got to wondering how baseball people were using time ordinarily spent playing baseball, given a world suddenly granting unlimited free refills of time.
(I picked up a guitar, downloaded an app and starting in the fall will be touring with Ratt. Hannah picked up a baseball, fired her first fastball at a velocity within posted speed limits on her city block, and now is considering three offers to fill out coronavirus-era bullpens.)
So we asked around — what non-baseball thing have you gotten better at in the past couple months? We got beekeeping and piano playing and sunset watching and meditating and, seriously, beekeeping. There were a decent number of, “Well, uh, nothing really,” which is cool, because getting better at doing nothing is a pretty useful skill in pandemics and baseball.
In all, 30 people in and around the game told us about how they have spent their time during the pandemic. Most of the following answers were strung together from text messages and emails or phone conversations, all of them emanating from that first morning of quarantine when we thought to ourselves, “Well, now what the hell am I going to do?”
It was intended to be fun, so thanks to those who played along. And if you need a right-hander willing to throw inside, Hannah is ready.
What baseball people got better at
Chris Archer, Pirates pitcher: I don’t know how to word the answer, but basically I’ve been better at watching the sunset. I’ve been to Malibu and the Valley more to watch the sun set during this period than I ever have in my life. One of nature’s most beautiful gifts.
Nolan Arenado, Rockies third baseman: Not biting my fingernails anymore. My nails are looking nice. But, no, I haven’t gotten good at anything else.
Jerry Remy, Red Sox broadcaster and cancer survivor: I have no hobbies! I basically haven't been able to go out because I'm high-risk, you know, and the doctors obviously want me to stay in the house as much as possible. I go out for a little ride in the morning, I come back, and I just watch TV and do Cameos — I just joined it about a month ago and it’s pretty good, it’s not bad.
Gary Disarcina, Mets third-base coach: Over the past two months I have been able to experience several different things: bird watching, beekeeping, running and cooking. I got stung in the face the other day. One got into my suit and had some fun. The little ones can pack a punch too.
James Click, Astros general manager: Homeschooling. Honestly, I’ve been so consumed with everything going on with the new organization, the family, the move to Houston, I haven’t had time. Also, who had time for beekeeping?
Dave Roberts, Dodgers manager: In much better shape with Peloton routine, perfected my margarita, binged some tremendous shows.
Rob Manfred, MLB commissioner: Running. I was on the tennis team in college and still was the worst runner of all time. So I started running four times a week, two or two-and-a-half miles a day.
Tony Clark, MLBPA chief: The use of technology. Working remotely, while ensuring all of the work that needs to get done, does force your hand to understand each of the different platforms available to you. No excuses anymore!
Luis Rojas, Mets manager: I’ve gotten better, organically, at using my phone, the Zoom app, meeting with players and coaches, watching videos of players. Also, I’m reading, “Leading: Learning From Life and My Years and Manchester United,” by Alex Ferguson.
Rocco Baldelli, Twins manager: Will try to avoid getting too introspective here. We’ve all been given space in ways we’ve never really seen. You definitely start filling that space in new ways, which is cool and even empowering.
We all know that perspectives and points of view will never be the same. We’ve also worked away on new topics and tried to be better communicators. That’s the reality of everybody, across the board, throughout our game.
Ultimately, I don’t know if I got better at anything. Hope I got better. May have, but also hope I didn’t get worse at too many things.
On a lighter note, we’ve really tried to step up our coffee game and deep dive into some new music. We’ve ordered dozens of untried coffees from all over (Onyx, PT’s, Bird Rock being some new picks). We normally don’t have a schedule that allows for it.
Also, regularly streaming handpicked Phish/Grateful Dead with friends. Those streams have been cathartic. When I said “new music,” it’s usually digging into the catalogues of those two bands. Plenty of material to cover. Also, it’s been cool spending time discussing/lightly arguing life and politics with my family. What’s better than that? It’s beautiful. We normally don’t have a schedule that allows for it.
Sean Doolittle, Nationals relief pitcher: I started cycling. I would not say I’m good at it. Most days it kicks my ass. But I’ve had a lot of fun learning about my bike and working on it and doing Zwift rides on my indoor trainer when I can’t get outside. I’m hoping it will help me build leg strength and endurance for when/if baseball starts up again. Plus it’s a fun and safe way to get outside for a few hours.
I’ve also started doing some art? I’ve had ideas for tattoos I want to get, so I started working on some designs using a drawing app on my iPad. The app helps because I don’t have a steady hand, but working on the designs has been a lot of fun.
Jim Abbott, retired pitcher: I’ve been into meditating, the Headspace app. While I’ve always felt rushed and in a hurry, the pace life has slowed to is an unintended blessing.
Rick Ankiel, retired outfielder/pitcher: Relaxing. I was forced to because of the quarantine and I learned I don’t have to be busy 24 hours a day. And it’s OK.
Kim Ng, MLB International Baseball Operations: I’m learning the electric piano. The first song I could play was [redacted], and you cannot print that. I have graduated to Piano Man by Billy Joel. I found a Frank Sinatra book but that may be above my pay grade at this point.
Mike Maddux, Cardinals pitching coach: Some things I’ve improved/learned the past two months:
The honey-do list has gotten much shorter.
If you hit it straight, a dozen golf balls last longer.
Zoom weddings (my older daughter was married in our backyard) make a lot of good $en$e. We toasted with champagne and Corona beer.
Tommy La Stella, Angels second baseman: Mine’s gotta be cooking. [Girlfriend] Katie has been showing me the ropes and it’s been fun. Eating what you cook is pretty rewarding.
Boog Sciambi, ESPN broadcaster: Dishes.
George Lombard, Dodgers first-base coach: I can start with organizing the house, working in the yard, spending unbelievable family time with my two boys and my wife, cooking and doing family exercises to open up our minds.
And I wanted to become a better speaker so I’ve been working with a life coach and learning to tell my story.
Ron Wotus, Giants third-base coach: Finally have a handle on all my irrigation leaks, and the time to fix them! Organizing things around the house that I never have time to get to.
Bill “Chief” Gayton, Diamondbacks scout: I’m tiling a double-sided fireplace. It’s 8 ½-feet tall. Ran some electrical, framed it out, then the tiling. I gotta say, 1/16th of an inch is a nightmare when it’s off. But three of the sides have turned out nice. So I guess my answer is, tiling and spring training for retirement.
Trey Hillman, Marlins third-base coach: Probably ranch work. Just lots of good ol’ manual labor of all kinds and watching a lot of deer on the [Texas] ranch.
Andrew Friedman, Dodgers general manager: Cooking is the easy thing. I’ve dabbled in the past. Now I’m making breakfast every morning. My specialty is scrambled eggs in a tortilla with salsa. Also, I told my son, when he’s doing his 20 or 30 minutes of Spanish class to come get me. It’s first-grade Spanish.
Max Scherzer, Nationals pitcher, via his wife, Erica Scherzer: Max says he’s gotten a lot better at doing our daughter’s hair. You’d be shocked how tangled it gets and he’s finally figuring out how to comb through it. Also, Max makes really good tuna steaks and shishito peppers.
Tim Mead, Hall of Fame president: I have had the opportunity to enjoy the privileges and practice the responsibilities of being a grandfather with young Logan. Long walks, chases, changing diapers and pushing a rock ‘n’ roll vocabulary, all while watching the development of an inquisitive mind and fantastic personality.
Shane Robinson, outfielder in Braves organization: My wife started working again for a company selling [personal protective equipment] while I’m at home, so I’ve been filling her role. I’ve gotten really good at homeschooling. It’s been fulfilling spending so much quality time with them [Tinley, 8; Harper, 5] that I wouldn’t normally get this time of year.
Rich Hill, Twins pitcher: Oh, I meant to text you back! Gardening. Lots and lots of gardening. Planted flowers, green peppers, red peppers and strawberries. Also, am seeding our lawn. And, cooking.
Randy Dobnak, Twins pitcher: I’ve gone fishing a lot more than I used to, been helping my wife cook more (she cooks, I’m the assistant), as well as just doing random projects around the house! It’s definitely weird being home this time of the year. The last time I was home during the spring without baseball, I was probably like four or five. We have made chicken cordon bleu, multiple variations of chicken including stir-fry, on grill, Mex bowls, etc., pork chops in an instant pot, meatloaf, different variations of deer meat like steak, burger, jerky. She finds things on Pinterest and they tend to turn out pretty good!
Don Orsillo, Padres broadcaster: I would say fishing, although I’m on a bad run right now. I live on the bay in San Diego and actually it’s kind of embarrassing — I have a paddle boat and I paddle out to the middle of the bay and I fish. It’s pretty much my whole offseason deal. I do that every day, which is relaxing to me, I really enjoy it.
But now, you know, I'm off in spring for the first time in 30 years, I’ve been out there every day and I think I’m actually getting better at it. Even though I’ve gone three straight days, and documented it on Twitter, without any fish. I’m a catch-and-release guy pretty much. I always feel like they can get bigger.
John Kruk, Phillies broadcaster: The thing I have gotten better at is bass fishing. Golf game has gotten worse so I am fishing more.
Albert Pujols, Angels first baseman: I’m just trying to get my golf game better. Spending time with the family, also.
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