JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The waiting game is just about over for Major League Baseball players, including one from the area.
San Francisco outfielder Austin Slater, a former Bolles School star, is preparing to officially begin the 2020 season next week when players will begin reporting for spring training. MLB will play a 60-game regular season.
Slater said that he’s been working out and staying in shape at the Giants facility in Scottsdale, Ariz. Like all baseball players, he’s ready to get back to work after the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down the sports world.
“I have been going into our spring training facility for the last seven weeks, but I have felt pretty comfortable,” Slater said. “But there have been some outbreaks at some camps, but I have felt pretty safe with how our training safe and the coaching staff has been handling it.”
Slater, one of 16 players with area ties who played in the majors last season, is entering his seventh year of professional baseball. He was an eighth-round pick out of Stanford in 2014 and is a career .254 hitter in the bigs with nine home runs, 18 doubles and 60 RBI. And it’s about time that Slater and the rest of players can finally return to the field.
Part of the agreement between MLB and the players association is that there will be additional safety protocols added to keep everyone safe inside the facilities. Slater says he feels comfortable will the safety practices in place and thinks everyone will just have to be responsible outside of the facility.
“You know, with this spike it is a little scary time, but I feel like it will come down to the players to be responsible, the coaches and all of the staff to be responsible, outside the facility,” he said.
The biggest change this year will be that no fans will be allowed in the stands at games. Slater said it will almost be like being back in the minor leagues.
“I don’t know how familiar you are with the very low level minor league in the Gulf Coast League and the Arizona Summer League,” he said. “It is pretty comparable to that. There are no fans and you are playing baseball. It will be weird being in that big of a stadium with no one there. Hopefully it will normalize.”
It is still unclear if the MLB plans to not allow fans to attend games for the entire season on if that could change in the coming weeks.