Like so much of the rest of the world, Steven Matz was surprised by the speed at which the new coronavirus transformed from a news story of which people were vaguely aware to a full-blown global pandemic that has touched virtually every area of American life — including Major League Baseball, which has been shut down since March 12 and has no scheduled season start date.
Matz remembers clearly what he was doing on baseball’s last day before its indefinite hiatus: enjoying the Mets’ scheduled off day in Port St. Lucie, mentally preparing for an early-morning cross-state bus ride to play the Braves the next day. At about 3 p.m. that Thursday, he got a text alerting him that the Friday game had been canceled. Later, another text telling Mets players not to come to the Clover Park complex at all Friday.
“By Sunday, it was like everyone was gone,” Matz recalled Wednesday night during an appearance on ESPN New York 98.7. “It happened really fast and a lot of us really weren’t sure what to think. We’re like, ‘Is this really happening?’ It was almost surreal. ‘Man, everybody is gone. This thing really got shut down.’ ”
About three weeks ago, Matz returned to his Nashville home and resumed something similar to his offseason workouts with his offseason workout partners, a group of professional ballplayers who live in the area.
That includes Mets reliever Brad Brach, Matz’s throwing partner.
“We both told each other when we both headed out [of Port St. Lucie], like, hey, listen, we’re not going to be flaky,” Matz said. “We’re going to try to act like it’s the season and we’re going to try to stay really consistent with our throwing. It’s been really nice having him down here, having that same mindset.
“My mindset going into it was I’m going to stay like I’m throwing five innings every fifth day and keep in that area so when that little spring [training] came, I could be ready to throw five innings and build up from there,” Matz continued. “Now it’s just like, hey, I feel really good, I feel really healthy. I’ll stay right there and see what happens with this thing around the world.”
Matz described life in Nashville in ways that will sound familiar to folks in the tri-state area. Nonessential businesses are closed. People at grocery stores wear masks and gloves. And he talks most days with his parents in New York.
“It’s kind of scary, to be honest,” Matz said of what he hears about New York. “I got grandparents up there. They’re just kind of staying put in the house. Thankfully it hasn’t really hit home for me yet. It’s definitely scary up there right now. It’s really hit New York hard.”
While he waits for the coronavirus to abate and baseball to return, Matz is pitching in. Through his Tru32 charity, the Stony Brook native and Ward Melville alumnus is donating $32,000 to Elmhurst Hospital in Queens and FDNY and NYPD charities. He also is selling T-shirts at pastimewithpurpose.org/shop, with proceeds similarly donated to help the cause.
Tru32 primarily works with first responders and the military but has adjusted to assist in the fight against the coronavirus.
“This is why we started this thing in the first place,” Matz said. “Tragedy unfortunately does strike first responders and military too often, and this is almost a no-brainer for us. Even though it’s not necessarily first responders, it’s the people on the front lines making sacrifices to stop this virus and keep people healthy. We saw a point of need and we wanted to jump right on it.”