MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred talked, back in late March, about baseball eventually returning and, hopefully, helping the country (and world) recover a sense of normalcy amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
“The one thing I know for sure is baseball will be back,” Manfred told ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt.
“Whenever it’s safe to play, we’ll be back. Our fans will be back, our players will be back, and we will be part of the recovery, the healing in this country, from this particular pandemic.”
GM Mike Rizzo echoed those sentiments, about the healing power of baseball and its real importance in American life, in a conversation with reporters around the same time.
“We’re doing the best we can amid a lot of unknowns,” Rizzo said when asked about his own club’s handling of the pandemic response.
“We continue to rely on the CDC, the World Health Organization, and MLB as our resources.
“We’re certainly going to follow their protocols and their recommendations to the letter, and as the Commissioner recently said, when it’s safe to play baseball, baseball will be back, and our fans will be back and it will be part of the recovery process in the country, but safety and health is paramount.”
The start of the MLB season, Manfred explained, would mark a, “real milestone in the return to normalcy,” for the country.
“I think you saw it after 9/11 in terms of the resumption of play,” he said.
“I was there in Shea Stadium that night that we began playing; it was one of the most memorable games I’ve ever attended. It’s an honor for our sport to be regarded in a way that we have been part of our country coming back from some horrific events. We hope that we can play a similar role with respect to this one.”
Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez was there in New York on September 21, 2001, when a game was played in New York for the first time after the terrorist attacks. Martinez spoke a bit about that experience when he initially talked about Spring Training ending and MLB’s decision to postpone the start of the 2020 campaign in mid-March.
“That was tough,” the Nats’ skipper told reporters of baseball’s return in 2001.
“I actually flew home for the day, and I was getting ready to get back on a plane, I was on my way to the airport when all the stuff happened, turned around, went back home and turned the TV on when the second plane hit, and I thought, ‘This is not good.’ And they told me not to show up, stay at home until we figure out, so we went in and we actually went and played the Mets the very next week, and that was something. That was a tough game to play.”
Martinez previously told more of the story of his experiences on September 21, 2019 in NY, recalling the moment that Mets’ catcher Mike Piazza hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth that lifted the home team to a 3-2 lead.
“I was playing first base when Piazza hit the home run,” Martinez said on MASN this past September, “and to hear those people cheer ... and to hear the fans, for that split second, I can remember just really forgetting what had happened, but not really, but for the fans it was an unbelievable kind of breath of fresh air, you know, so this country has been through a lot, and we stuck together.”
“There [were] a lot of mixed feelings,” Martinez recalled when asked about baseball’s return to New York that day in 2001, in a Zoom call with reporters last week.
“As you all know, back then — it took us a while, whenever a plane was flying in the air, you tend to look up.
“There [were] a lot of uncertainties. There are plenty now as well, but when baseball does return, it will hopefully play a role in helping the country heal once again.
“I think for me right now, I feel like, I miss the game, and whatever it’s going to take to come back and play, I’m all for it,” Martinez said.
“But with that being said, I think the main concern and still a big concern is the safety and health of everybody. All participants. Players, coaches, staff, training staff, fans, everybody, you guys, writers, umpires, you name it, so there’s a lot of different things going on, a lot of different governments opening up at different times, so we’ll have to see, but like I said, all I can do is wake up every day and hope that I get some news that we’re going to start up soon and we’ll go from there.”