SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Major League Baseball normally plays 162 regular season games, followed by at least 11 playoff games. Then comes the long off-season from November until late March when the much anticipated ‘MLB Opening Day’ makes it return to America.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the baseball world too as the official 2020 Opening Day has been moved to at least the middle of May.
“I know there is an allure about Opening Day and there really isn’t anything like it in sports. I know it’s probably frustrating for a lot of the baseball fans out there, just like it is for me, but they’re doing the right thing right now,” former MLB pitcher Layne Somsen said.
Somsen, a Yankton native and former SDSU pitcher, retired from the MLB just this past season after playing seven years of professional baseball.
The ‘right thing’ that Somsen is referring to is the MLB’s decision to postpone the start of the 2020 season, due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
“I think that was the responsible thing to do. Honestly, we really don’t know how much this virus is going to affect everybody,” Somsen said. “So I think doing what they did, at the time that they did, was the right way to go about it.”
Somsen isn’t the only South Dakotan to weigh in on the status of baseball amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Dusty Coleman, a Sioux Falls O’Gorman graduate, played infield with the Kansas City Royals and the San Diego Padres.
“I think there’s a little bit of sadness today with this being the day that you’re supposed to start your season,” Coleman said. “I’m sure for the fans it’s rough and I know for the players, the guys that I’ve talked to, it’s been a weird time not knowing when the end will be or when they get to start the season.
As the sports world awaits the ending of coronavirus, many people may not realize the impact that this is having on some of the players.
“I think it hits the minor leaguers the hardest, in the baseball world at least,” Somsen said. “The longer this thing lasts, the more likely this is going to derail some player’s careers. So much of these guys rely on income so much throughout the year to supplement their families.”
The MLB created a stimulus package to pay the minor league players until April 8, but it is unclear what the league will do when that day comes.
While the fans wait eagerly for the return of live baseball, the players will try to find a way to social distance and still be ready for the season.
“I think they’re all trying to do their best and just get back into their off-season routine. I think it’s probably been the biggest adjustment for the pitchers,” Coleman said.
“I still have a lot of buddies who are still playing and I see a lot of them are just playing catch into a net or playing catch with the wall, while doing their best at this social distancing thing,” Somsen said. “You’ve got to find time to throw (as a pitcher), because it’s going to come back to bite you, if you aren’t throwing.”
Everyday from now, until the actual Opening Day of the 2020 MLB season, is a day that will be taken away from the MLB’s long 162 game season.
It may be difficult for the league to get all 162 games played this season as the beginning of the year has been moved back to the mid-May.
Another factor into the abbreviated season is the possibility of spring training. The average fan would assume there will be no spring training, since the length of the season is limited already, however Somsen and Coleman have a different opinion.
“If I was playing, I would like to at least have a couple of weeks, where I can get in and see some live at bats, go outside and do somethings, before I jump right into the at bats that count. Just to get some games where you can work on a few things,” Coleman said.
“As a hitter, it’s a lot harder to get ready for the season. You have to see more pitches to get yourself ready to go,” Somsen said. “As a pitcher, I probably only need a week. If I’m maintaining my arm and doing what I’m supposed to do, then I’d probably only need a week,” Somsen said.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred recently announced a possible solution to the limited schedule. Manfred said that the teams could play more double headers, but there could be a lot of controversy on that subject.
“With a limited schedule, I think that could be one of the ways that we can get all of the games in. I think that would be really hard on the pitchers. The season is long enough the way it is, with nine inning games and if you add innings, then you have to find a way to pitch those innings,” Somsen said. “As a pitcher myself, we throw a lot the way it is already.”
It may be tough to adjust for the pitchers, Coleman thinks that depth could help this situation.
“I think the players’ bodies will adjust. Having the 26th man that they have now, could come into play more. Just giving the catchers more days off probably so they’re not catching back to back,” Coleman said.
While we wait for baseball, Coleman says the league will be working hard to answer a lot of questions.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of ramifications that we might not realize that that’s the best way to go about it,” Coleman said. “I’m sure there’s a lot of smart people behind the scenes trying to deal with it all and come up with the best way.”
Some of the ramifications that Coleman is referring to are things such as players’ salaries, the need for spring training, the length of a season and much more.
In the meantime, Somsen has only one thing to say about the MLB.
“Just wait on it, I mean baseball has been around forever,” Somsen said. “We’ll just have to wait and see. It’s going to be back sometime and we’ll be waiting for it!”