It was a beautiful summer Sunday afternoon. The sun was out. Grills were on. Drinks were had.
Baseball was nowhere to be found.
As I sat on my parents’ deck on Long Island, the only thing I could think about was how much better a ballgame would make this day. A summer Sunday just doesn’t feel like a summer Sunday without baseball. I began scrolling through Twitter looking for the latest updates from beat reporters on the negotiations between ownership and the players association. Like everything else in this world today, you don’t know who or what to believe anymore.
James Earl Jones' epic monologue from Field of Dream started playing through my head once I put my phone down.
“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again.”
A global pandemic sent us to hell and back these past few months. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the Tri-State Area who wasn’t directly affected by COVID-19. I was living in NYC when the outbreak began and didn’t leave my apartment building for 6 weeks. You read that right. 6 weeks I stayed bunkered in a tiny NYC apartment up as someone with a compromised immune system. The fear of the unknown was some of the greatest fear I’ve ever experienced.
It was a dark time to be a New Yorker.
Just two weeks before the outbreak, I was at Spring Training with my dad. That visit typically represents the end of winter in New York and a sign that brighter days are ahead. This time around our Spring Training trip is what helped me keep my sanity throughout lockdown.
Each and every day I would think about what I would do “when I got out.” Grab a beer and a hot dog at Citi Field was at the top of my list. And there wasn’t a close second. I drank out of Citi Field souvenir cups and watched YouTube clips of Pete Alonso, Jacob deGrom, and even David Wright if I was in the mood for a cry.
For several weeks it felt like the closest we were going to get to baseball this year was through MLB The Show simulations on SNY. I’ve enjoyed those about as much as a Yankees Classic on the YES Network. I’d be more entertained by watching Keith tell his cat a bedtime story. Just think about it, Keith.
As we made progress in New York and beyond, there appeared to be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Would sports actually return? Are we going to get baseball this year?
The NBA, PGA Tour and NHL put their plans into place. Football has several options in preparation for a fall start. Rumblings about baseball kicking off around July 4 began. America’s favorite pastime starting its season on America’s birthday? Yes, please!
Not so fast.
Tensions arose between ownership and the players association. There’s no love lost here. Neither side seems to forget what the other has done in year’s past. Negotiations have started and stopped, started and stopped, started and stopped. Who knew the biggest obstacle to the baseball season starting in 2020 was going to be baseball itself?
MLB is determined to play games this year. The way the sides are entrenched, I would suspect an agreement for more than 50 games at full; protation is going to be difficult.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) June 8, 2020
This has once again proven that the biggest rivalry in the game remains the players and the owners. “The new normal” is a term thrown around a lot these days. Well, someone should’ve told these two sides about a new normal because all I’m seeing is a lot of the same old from them.
New York City entered Phase 1 of the reopening process on Monday. That’s a day that felt like it may never come in the middle of March when the world was put on hold. Long Island begins Phase 2 later this week and many areas upstate are already there. “The new normal” is beginning to take shape. But is any of it really normal without baseball?
It will be wonderful to see local businesses open back up and jobs return for those who have been out of work. All of that is of the utmost importance and a positive step. We were due for some good news and this is great news. Yet many of us will still be thinking about baseball. It’s a constant in our lives and symbolizes normal in this country.
Will it happen in July? August? April of 2021? It’s a guessing game now and yet another “fluid situation” I just wish there was an answer to.
While it can be debated who should bear the brunt of the losses in a year such as 2020 (the owner of a business, its employees, or equally?), these MLB-players union negotiations have felt more like a 2021 collective bargaining agreement negotiation than simply a 2020 season one.— James Wagner (@ByJamesWagner) June 8, 2020
Fans are turning their lonely eyes to you, baseball. We might not be able to come to the ballpark this year, and that’s OK if we can just watch our beloved teams play. That’s a “new normal” we’d all settle for right about now. My hot dog and beer at Citi Field daydream will have to stay a daydream for a little longer. I’d take games on the couch for now.
Ohhhhhhhh, people will watch. People will most definitely watch.
There’s just no telling how many people that will be in 2021 if this season becomes a wash.
A lot has stood in the way of a 2020 baseball season. Don’t let yourself be the reason it doesn’t become a reality, baseball.
If you're hitting the final home game on Thursday at Citi Field, swing by the Marina Lot to see some friends, maybe meet some new ones, and responsibly wash down your sorrows before heading inside.