Cubs News

One year later: remembering the day baseball shut down

1 year agoAndy Martinez

MESA, Ariz. — Social distancing, masks, protocols and any other vocabulary that has become standard jargon in the last 12 months may as well have been a foreign language to David Ross one year ago today.

In the first 10 days of March 2020, Ross was focused on one thing: putting the best Chicago Cubs team on the field. The Cubs front office had the same focus, but Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer were also keeping a close eye on the COVID-19 virus that was sweeping the world.

“I remember Theo talking a couple of times about it, but it really wasn’t on my radar, because I was busy with the team and trying to organize my things and thoughts and the season,” Ross recalled earlier this week. “Theo and Jed had mentioned a couple of times about what might be coming and a little ahead of the curve than I was, but that’s what I remember that stood out to me.”

Everything changed on March 11, 2020.

 

For Ross and most Americans,  the coronavirus landed in our backyard that very night. It started when actor Tom Hanks announced on Instagram that he and his wife Rita Wilson had tested positive for the disease and were quarantining in Australia. A few hours later, the Utah Jazz’ Rudy Gobert had tested positive and their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder had been canceled. That night, the NBA paused its season, and the Cubs downed the Padres 3-2 at Sloan Park.

Everyone knows what happened next: MLB shut down and wouldn’t return for over 4 months. Baseball would be back, but it would feel like the longest year many have ever lived.

“It feels like it’s been 7 [years],” Ross said. “I don’t know how to put that in perspective. There’s been a lot.”

But in that seemingly never-ending year, there was one constant that Ross and the rest of the Cubs were able to take from the year: they were all able to grow and learn.

“I think it was a tremendous opportunity for personal growth,” Trevor Williams, who was with the Pirates last season, said. “For my family and I, it was time together in a time of year where we never have that time together. We really cherished it.”

It was an incredibly special year for Williams. He was able to experience special moments in the lives of his two infant children, Josephine and Jude and his elder son, Isaac, that he normally wouldn’t have otherwise.

“My daughter started crawling and walking and then my son started crawling and walking,” Williams said. “All while my oldest was kinda like being a big brother and like falling into that role. It’s cool, because when you’re on the road in a normal baseball season, you see [them] for a week and then you go on the road for a week and then [you] come back and they’re already standing, but I got to see it in real time.”

Williams was appreciative of that.

“It was a time for growth, where the world kinda forced you to take control of your interior life,” Williams said. “Take control of what was most important. Was it the family time, was it communication, was it reaching out to other people that are in need? It was a great experience for my family because we got to spend time together and kinda reassess on what was most important.”

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Trevor Williams (@mellamotrevor)

 

Kris Bryant also got to experience some unexpected family time. On April 7, 2020, his son Kyler was born. In a normal season, Bryant would only have been able to miss up to 3 games for the birth. Because of the pandemic, Bryant was able to spend the first 3 months of Kyler’s life with him.

“Obviously, one of the toughest years ever in the history of this country and I get to add my son in the craziest time,” Bryant said. “Definitely some stories to tell him later on. I’m just thankful and blessed that hopefully getting through this and still a ways to go, but a lot of us learned a lot along the way and I’m very appreciative of that and I am where I am right now.”

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Kris Bryant (@kris_bryant17)

 

Williams was one of the first players to go through any sort of COVID-19 protocols in 2020. Prior to the season being suspended, Williams’ former team, the Pirates, instituted a policy barring any players from signing autographs for fans during spring training to limit contact. Then, when the season returned, there were no fans at the ballpark at all. In spring training, fans have been allowed in at partial capacity, but players aren’t allowed to interact with much.

“We do our best to throw balls out to kids,” Williams said. “We do our best signing autographs in the mail. I think the fans are getting used to it now. I’m thankful Mayor [Lori] Lightfoot is gonna be allowing fans in the stands in Chicago.”

That shows that the sunlight from a horizon that hasn’t been seen in a year is back in sight. Ross knows this.

“It’s fresh this year,” Ross said. “It feels good to be back because it does feel like we’re moving in the right direction to get out all this stuff.

“We still have a lot to overcome and stuff to be diligent, but it also feels like we’re getting back to some sense of normal and maybe that’s just because there’s fans in the stands [and] some different things. Seeing some of you [reporters] around that have been in the outskirts of the ballpark, it’s like you guys will be in the locker room before you know it. It feels like we’re moving in the right direction.”

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