Over the course of Major League Baseball’s negotiations with the MLB Players Association, Taylor Rogers’ thoughts fluctuated from one extreme (days where he thought there wouldn’t be a season) to the other (days he thought they might play 100 games).
Throughout it all, Rogers, the Minnesota Twins’ interim MLBPA rep, tried to keep himself and his teammates — who he was tasked with informing — as levelheaded as possible.
“Everybody is in scramble-mode, freak-out mode like that scene from, ‘The Office’ where everybody is freaking out,” Rogers said. “That’s kind of where we’re at.”
MLB officially announced Tuesday night that there will be a 60-game season beginning July 23 or 24 with a spring training 2.0 starting on July 1. That leaves teams racing to prepare their stadiums to ensure compliance with health and safety protocols and players rushing into town, where many must find housing on short notice.
The Twins have been getting Target Field ready for this moment. They are planning on utilizing both the home and visiting clubhouses as well as some other spaces like the Thompson Reuters Champions Club, team president Dave St. Peter said, to help maintain social distancing guidelines.
As players come into town, they will be required to undergo a COVID-19 test. MLB’s document with health and safety protocols is 100 pages long, Rogers said, and the closer said he has skimmed half of it so far. As creatures of habit, Rogers said once they learn the new measures, they’ll be able to evolve them into their original routine.
“We all feel pretty comfortable with the health and safety protocols. … I think if we follow the protocols and do what we’re supposed to do on and off the field, everybody seems to be fairly comfortable,” he said. “Obviously that’s going to be something that’s kind of an ongoing thing, a liquid situation, but so far I think nobody really has a lot of concerns with the protocols that we just need to follow.”
Education will be key for teams as they welcome players back into stadiums. Teams will be allowed to have up to 60 players at spring training and 30 on the roster to begin the year. That number will be trimmed to 26 over the course of the first month of the season.
The remaining players will form a “taxi squad” which will train away from Target Field. St. Peter said the Twins have talked to the St. Paul Saints about using CHS Field and have talked to Gophers coach John Anderson about practicing over at Siebert Field at the University of Minnesota but have not yet finalized a location.
Spring training itself, though, is expected to be conducted at Target Field with players likely to be split into groups at staggered times. Though Rogers said three weeks isn’t a lot of time for a ramp-up period, players knew it was a possibility and are ahead of where they normally would be for a traditional spring training.
When the season does begin, the Twins will play 40 games against American League Central rivals and another 20 against National League Central opponents. Last year, the Twins finished with the best record among those 10 teams.
Those 60 games, for now, will likely be played with no fans in attendance — at least in Minnesota. St. Peter said the team is actively engaged in conversation with Gov. Tim Walz’s office and the Minnesota Department of Health about potentially re-introducing fans to Target Field at some point this year.
“I’m hopeful we will have fans at some point during the 2020 season,” St. Peter said.
But whether or not that happens, the Twins are ready to welcome baseball back after three and a half months of waiting and wondering.
“It’s not a perfect world we live in. We all recognize that, and I think at the end of the day, there’s a mutual desire to try to have baseball play some role in helping our country come back together,” St. Peter said. “But it’s not without risks, both financial risks as well as health and safety risks. We all recognize that. I think we’re realistic going into that. I think we’re excited to be moving forward but we also know that 2020, there’s been nothing easy about this, I can assure you that.”