JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Ben Gamel, like most athletes, is adjusting to a new normal these days.
Hit when you can, where you can. Work out when you can. And then wait.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused sports to come to a standstill across the world.
It wiped out much of spring training for Gamel, a Milwaukee Brewers outfielder and Bishop Kenny graduate. When baseball resumes is anyone’s guess.
Gamel, one of 16 players with area ties who played in Major League Baseball last season, should have been getting ready for Thursday’s opening day game against the Cubs.
Instead, he was back in town and scouring the area to find batting cages in the area to get some swings in.
Right now, that’s the new normal.
“It’s been challenging to find places to hit and continue to work out and stuff like that,” Gamel said. “Definitely had to get a little more creative than normal.
“Kind of on your own. At this point in my career, I pretty much know what I need to do and get done in an offseason. Like I said, this is foreign. Been more challenging to get work in.”
Gamel, who was drafted by the Yankees in the 10th round out of Bishop Kenny in 2010, enjoyed his two best seasons in the bigs with Seattle in 2017-18 before being traded to the Brewers in 2019. He hit .248 with 33 RBI and seven home runs last year. His RBIs, home runs, hits (77) and at-bats (311) were all the second-highest totals in his career.
“Everyone’s just kind of waiting, waiting for a date, waiting for new information,” he said. “You just got to take it in stride … just wait.”
At Kenny, Gamel was a rock-solid player right out of the gate for coach Tommy Edwards. He was a three-time first-team all-city pick who hit a career-best .516 as a senior and was a News4Jax All-25 selection. When he was drafted out of Kenny, Gamel was the highest Crusaders player selected straight out of the school since catcher Tony Richie went in the fifth round to the White Sox in 2000. His brother, Mat, who also played at Kenny, was a fourth-round pick of the Brewers out of Chipola College in 2005.
“I was fortunate enough to be able to play out my senior year and have some great memories on the high school baseball field,” Gamel said. “I feel big time for everyone who had their seasons cut short. And college seniors out there, too, aren’t going to have an opportunity again. I feel for them.”