NEW YORK, N.Y. – When the father of Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell tested negative for the coronavirus, it was “a sigh of relief” to the New York Mets.
Donovan Mitchell Sr. is a fixture in and around the Mets’ clubhouse in his job as the team’s director of player relations and community outreach. The younger Mitchell confirmed Thursday he tested positive for the virus after Jazz teammate Rudy Gobert became the first NBA player to test positive, with Gobert's result prompting the league to suspend the season.
The elder Mitchell was tested Thursday and it came back negative, the Mets announced Friday night.
“We all were very pleased and happy for Donovan and his family,” general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said Saturday on a conference call with reporters from the team’s spring training home in Port St. Lucie, Florida. “And I know there was a sigh of relief to a degree of our players and staff here.”
Van Wagenen said no other members of the staff in Port St. Lucie or baseball operations had been tested.
With spring training adjourned all around the majors due to the COVID-19 crisis, the club met Saturday morning with players who were still in Port St. Lucie and encouraged them to focus not on baseball right now but on their own health, safety and families.
“Obviously, we had a unique situation in that we were awaiting Donovan Mitchell’s test results, so we shared that information and we shared with them other appropriate information as it relates to their health and safety,” Van Wagenen said. “Players had a number of questions with our staff as well as our performance and medical staff, and players are making a variety of different choices. Some are choosing to travel. Others are still deciding while they’re contemplating the variables with their family and with their friends, and others have made the decision to at least stand by here and stay at least for the near term.”
After learning of the Jazz situation Wednesday night, the Mets advised Mitchell Sr. not to report to their spring training facility Thursday morning. After finding out Thursday that Mitchell Jr. tested positive, the Mets’ medical staff recommended his father be tested as a precaution.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus within a few weeks.
Because of the outbreak, Major League Baseball canceled the remainder of the spring training schedule Thursday and postponed opening day by at least two weeks to no sooner than April 9. Ballparks in Florida and Arizona were closed to the general public, and MLB has told players they can remain at camp, report to their team's home city or go to their own home.
“The plan for each player will vary. What I can say is that we are not having extended simulation games or live BP sessions where pitchers are throwing to hitters today, and as information comes in we will start to schedule the agenda for the days that are coming,” Van Wagenen said. “We’re operating right now that this is bigger than baseball. This is not about preparing for competition today as much as it is making sure that players are considering their own circumstances.”
The Philadelphia Phillies and Minnesota Twins each gave their players the option to remain in town near their training facilities in Florida or to return to their homes.
"We understand every player and circumstance is different and we urged them to make decisions in their own personal best interest," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said.
Said Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey: “Big-picture, baseball was secondary.”
Some teams pledged to make decisions as a group.
The New York Yankees are staying in Tampa, Florida, where many players worked out Saturday with batting practice indoors and fielding drills outside.
Texas Rangers players said they would decide as a team whether to remain at camp in Arizona or perhaps go back to Texas, where their new stadium is only partly operational — though the bullpen, batting cages and weight rooms are close to completion.
As for the Mets, they were waiting to gather more information.
“Today we do have players that are here on site that are getting treatment from our training room, players that are working out in the weight room, and players that are participating in some baseball activities,” Van Wagenen said. “Once we continue to evolve the list of players that is going to be staying, then we’ll be building our camp schedules accordingly.
“Right now it’s still premature to know how many people will be on site here tomorrow.”
AP Sports Writers Dave Campbell, Stephen Hawkins, Rob Maaddi and freelance writer Mark Didtler contributed to this report.