While preparing for minor league spring training with the Minnesota Twins, Delone Catholic grad Casey Lawrence trains at a hometown gym with his dad. York Dispatch
Two weeks ago, Casey Lawrence sat in a meeting with the Minnesota Twins’ team doctors to discuss precautions players could take to prevent a potential spread of the coronavirus.
After listening to their suggestions, which included the players washing their hands frequently, Lawrence was presented with a question that puzzled him: How the athletes and fans could prevent exposure to the virus while on the field?
Throughout a baseball game, it’s estimated that an average of 8-10 dozen balls are used, and on any given play, the ball is transferred from the umpire to the catcher and then to the pitcher, who likely licks his fingers and touches his face.
If the ball is hit in play and an out is recorded, the ball is thrown around the infield and touched by four more players. That same ball then is fouled into the crowd and now a fan has a ball touched by seven people.
The answer he received — or lack of one — made the situation become real for Lawrence, weeks before the Delone Catholic High graduate saw the Major League Baseball season suspended because of the pandemic.
“Pretty much, there wasn’t an answer and that’s when you realize how fast anything can spread, just in sports,” Lawrence said. “Little things like that you don’t think about until something of this magnitude comes out. You really don’t sit back and think it can happen to you.”
Lawrence, 32, is a former major league pitcher with the Toronto Blue and Seattle Mariners. After spending a year playing professionally in Japan, he's attempting to earn another shot in the big leagues. He's on a minor-league deal with the Twins.
‘Trying to grasp’: For now, MLB’s solution to stopping the spread of the virus is to halt the entire sport, like almost all pro organizations across the globe.
While the sports world watched league after league suspend operations, Lawrence and his teammates went on with their training, and waited for the inevitable news that they, too, would be affected.
After the news of Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert’s positive test was announced, there was no denying for Lawrence that the MLB season wasn’t going to proceed as planned.
“Once that happened, you knew it was going to trickle down into baseball,” Lawrence said. “You’re running through all these situations in your head and trying to grasp what’s about to happen.”
Lawrence said the first question on his and a number of his teammates’ minds was whether or not they would be paid. For now, he said that question is still unclear. Teams and agents are battling over the legal language in their contracts.
No gym access: Until the end of the month, Lawrence and his family are staying in Florida at the property he rented for spring training.
While there, he is limited to workouts he can create at home, including some resistance band activities and throwing sessions with his father and normal offseason catcher, Wayne.
Lawrence said he has heard the league would like to have an abbreviated spring training as a period for the players to “ramp up” before the season potentially begins. The Twins have provided their pitchers with a throwing program to be ready when, and if, baseball returns, but the timetable for that is still unclear.
Bigger than baseball: While baseball is the way he makes a living and has been a major part of his life for more than a decade, Lawrence recognizes that right now, some things are more important than sports.
Like fans, athletes and coaches around the world, he is eager for sports to come back into his life, but after it’s safe to throw the ball around the infield or sign an autograph for a kid in the stands.
“Obviously the game is a big part of what we do, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s relatively small,” Lawrence said. “So first and foremost, we gotta try and get this virus under control, and that’s when you can start taking the steps of when baseball can start up again.
"There’s bigger things that need to be accomplished before baseball starts, but hopefully we get to the point where we can manage this thing and get back to entertaining people on the field.”
Reach Rob Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org.