The big news coming out of this afternoon’s conference call with Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo was an update on the goings-on in West Palm Beach, FL, where, until recently, 13 Nats’ players were working out while waiting out the shutdown of baseball and the majority of the U.S. amidst the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic.
“The news of probably the week is that we’ve totally closed the facility here in West Palm Beach, [FL],” Rizzo said.
“Our complex is being used as a coronavirus testing site until further notice, so we’re going to shut it down to all players and staff completely while the county and National Guard use it for testing.”
The start of the 2020 season has, of course, been delayed, after the end of Spring Training was postponed due to concerns about the spread of the virus earlier this month.
The first step now that the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches has been closed, Rizzo said, is finding somewhere for the players remaining in Florida to work out as they try to stay in shape for the 2020 campaign, when/if it actually starts.
“Our medical staff is still working on finding some off-site facilities for some players,” Rizzo explained.
“The handful of players that are rehabbing from injuries from last season, it’s a very, very small list, and obviously the injuries were a long time ago, so it’s not of something that’s of essential importance, and obviously the safety and the health of all players is paramount.
“Again, we’re in constant communication with all our players about their health and their training.”
As he said the last time he spoke to reporters, the good news, so far, is that no Nationals’ players have shown signs of being infected with the virus.
“On the health front,” Rizzo said, “we’ve had no players that have shown any symptoms of the coronavirus, which is a positive.
“Again, we have had no players that were found — needed to take the test, so we’ve had no players tested, and we continue to have no players with any symptoms.”
Asked specifically what the 13 players who stayed behind in West Palm Beach when Spring Training ended abruptly on March 12th, Rizzo explained that most of those players actually live in the area, and had homes to stay in locally while others went back to D.C. or their own home cities.
“The majority of the 13 players that were in West Palm have places here,” Rizzo said, “so they’re just at their homes, they’re isolating themselves, and again, finding some type of way to continue their throwing programs and workout programs at their own homes or facilities.
“We still do have several minor league players that we deemed it was unsafe to go back to their home countries here in West Palm Beach. We continue to take care of them and put them up at one of the local hotels, as we will continue to do until we start back up playing.”
The facilities in West Palm Beach officially closed once the Governor in Florida decided to shut down all non-essential businesses and recommend residents stay home.
“We were deemed to be a non-essential business,” Rizzo explained, “... so we adhere to the recommendations of the local government here, and within the FITTEAM Ballpark contract, the county has the right to utilize a portion of our facility for emergency use, and they decided to do that.”
The idea of having people showing up at the facility for testing for the coronavirus, Rizzo said, was not as troubling as you might expect.
“The location that is being utilized is far removed from all human contact that we would have — that would be with players,” he noted.
“But we felt that in an abundance of safety and precaution, we decided to lock down the facility even for the players that were in rehabilitation mode.”
In addition to the West Palm Beach facilities, Rizzo said, Nationals Park too has now been closed down in accordance with local decisions in the nation’s capital.
With Mayor [Muriel] Bowser — the same thing happened in D.C. as happened here in Florida where it’s essential business only,” he said.
“And again it would only be for players who are in a rehabilitation medical mode that would be able to come into the ballpark, so the ballpark is completely closed.”