WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — On the first day of Major League Baseball’s ban of media from clubhouses — an unprecedented step made in conjunction with the NBA, NHL and MLS — due to fear of the novel coronavirus outbreak, none of the Mets seemed too stressed about getting sick Tuesday.
Robinson Cano approached an interview with a group of reporters (outside the Mets’ clubhouse) with his hat covering his mouth before relenting with a laugh. At Clover Park during a morning workout, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon happily demonstrated what he called “the new way to say hello,” taught to him by Marcus Stroman, touching another person’s outstretched foot with his own. In line during a defensive drill, relievers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman went to high-five, hesitated, fist bumped instead and laughed as they wiped their hands, Lugo on the grass and Gsellman on his pant leg.
Across the world, COVID-19 paranoia is running high. In the Mets’ spring training bubble, not so much.
“You don’t want that, but I’m not scared,” Cano said. “It is what it is. If you get it, you get it. You can’t live with that in your mind every day. You just hope nobody gets it, hope it goes away soon and we don’t have to deal with this anymore.”
Nonessential team employees, in addition to reporters, are temporarily not allowed in the clubhouse. That includes some front-office executives. The Mets held a morning meeting to go over what an individual can do — and what the organization is doing — to try to avoid the virus, relaying recommendations from MLB (which has been in regular communication with the Center for Disease Control).
Brandon Nimmo said he is washing his hands thoroughly and regularly — something he does anyway, he said — carrying his own pen to sign autographs and generally trying to limit contact with other humans.
“The biggest thing that they emphasized to us is not necessarily what we’re going to do, but what they’re doing already everywhere we go,” Nimmo said. “They’re going to clean everything and make sure it’s sanitized and bleached down. They want to make sure we knew that they were taking care of everything on their end to keep us from getting that, and on our end to take care of yourself.”
Rick Porcello added: “Same thing that everyone else is hearing: Wash your hands, 20 seconds. Try to avoid contact. All those sort of things.”
MLB plans to open the season on time (March 26) and with fans in the stands. As sports leagues and communities domestically and intentionally restrict certain public gatherings, that could change.
“I don’t love that possibility,” Nimmo said.
Cano said he does not want to play in empty stadiums, but he would understand if that is ultimately MLB’s call.
“It [would] be weird, to go out and play with no fans,” Cano said. “It’s going to feel like you’re going to play in the Dominican Summer League, where nobody goes to the game.”