The writing was on the wall. As the COVID-19 virus became a pandemic and sizes of the crowds became more and more limited, Spring Training 2020 was cancelled by Major League Baseball.
I’ve been coming to spring training since 2007, had a part-time residence from 2009 to 2012, and lived here full time since 2012. This has been one long and strange week. The gravity of the situation is not lost on me but even in this short amount of time, everything has taken on an almost surreal quality.
Just one week ago, Grapefruit League games were being played and the crowds were building here in Florida. Everywhere you went there was a certain energy.
I live just three blocks from TD Ballpark, the home of the Toronto Blue Jays. On game days the little town of Dunedin springs to life, and just walking out on the porch in the morning there’s a tangible difference. It’s like the air has a special hum, a totally different vibe. You can see the people walking down Douglas Avenue towards the stadium, smell the food, and hear the music from the ballpark’s PA system. It’s a wondrous thing.
Now the vibe is totally different. It’s quiet, but with an undercurrent of nervousness. It’s almost as if a massive, perpetual hurricane is coming. Businesses in the area are on edge. The approximate six week period of spring training is normally a harbinger of what the year will bring. A bad spring can determine whether a small business lives or whether it dies a slow death. The abrupt end to the 2020 spring training “season”, cutting it by almost 1/3 its usual length, and now restrictions on whether a business can open or operate with limitations may prove to be the end for many.
This morning before running my errands, I drove past Spectrum Field and the Phillies Carpenter Complex. What was bustling last week now resembles a ghost town. There are what appear to be just a few employee cars in the lot. I saw a few people getting refunds on their tickets. But the fields are bare and the gate to the Complex is closed.
All of the players have been sent home, the Americans as well as the international players. It makes sense to stay wherever those homes are, as no one seems to know how long this will last.
I’m sitting here in my office now on a day that I should be hearing the roar of the crowd and the music pumped over the PA system. I should be feeling that vibe as thousands of fans arrive to attend another ball game. Instead, the only sounds I hear are the humming of my air conditioner and the far-off buzz of a leaf blower.
It just feels wrong. It feels lonely. Hopefully, this situation will be over sooner than later, and we can return to what will surely be a “new normal” in both baseball and our lives. I long for any “normal” – but especially one that has baseball and crowds of fans in it.
THE BELL – COVID 19 COVERAGE
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