“I’m going to be honest with you, I’m scared. I really am,” Davey Martinez told reporters when the Washington Nationals’ skipper got on a Zoom call in advance of the start of a series with the Toronto Blue Jays in the nation’s capital.
Martinez was reacting to the news that an outbreak of COVID-19 has spread throughout the Miami Marlins’ clubhouse, with 13 people testing positive, leading to the cancellation of the Marlins’ home opener with the Baltimore Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies’ series against the New York Yankees, which was set to take place in Citizens Bank Park, where the Fish and Phillies played this past weekend.
Martinez, who experienced heart-related health issues late last season, is concerned about not only himself, but his players, the staff in D.C., and everyone involved with the team. He’s being as careful as possible and doing what he can to stay safe.
“I go from here [Nationals Park], home, back here, every day,” Martinez explained. “That’s all I do. I wash my hands — I went from 47 times a day to probably 99 times a day. Wear my mask everywhere I go. But there’s always that concern. You don’t know — right now you don’t know, because of my heart condition, what happens to me if I do get it. So, I got to be extra careful.
“With that being said, sometimes I tend to put myself aside and worry about other people more than me. I think that’s why I’m here, because I worry about those guys, before I put myself first.”
Martinez was asked about his level of concern, (which was obviously already high, since the club is one of 30 trying to play a season during an ongoing pandemic), now that he’s heard the news about the Marlins’ outbreak.
“My level of concern went from about an 8 to a 12,” Martinez said. “I mean, this thing really can — it hits home now that you’re seeing half of a team get infected and go from one city to another.
“I’ve got friends on that Miami team, and it really stinks. I’m not going to lie, I’m not going to sugarcoat it, to see those guys go down like that, you know, it’s not good for them, it’s not good for anybody. I’ve got guys in our clubhouse that are really concerned as well, and for me, this is my family, and I worry about these guys, I worry about everybody around us. I don’t want anybody to get sick. So this is definitely a big concern.
“I can’t say that I’m not thinking about it, because I am. This morning I woke up and had all these text messages, and talked to other managers, and there’s definitely a level of concern. With that being said, we’ve got to go out there today and focus on playing the Toronto Blue Jays and put this behind us and hopefully this gets resolved.”
Martinez’s club has four games with the Blue Jays in D.C. this week, with Toronto the home team in the third and fourth since their home town didn’t want teams traveling to the city during a pandemic. The next stop for the Nationals after that? Miami. Which, well... will the Nationals be in Marlins Park this weekend?
“I don’t know,” he said. “As you know me, I worry about today. Hopefully they make the right decision, that’s all I’m going to say. That’s — Miami is going through a difficult time with this virus.
“We’ll see what happens in the next day or so, but hopefully they make the right decision.”
Martinez’s club will, of course, now be sharing a field with a Blue Jays team that just played three games in Florida, where they played the Tampa Bay Rays in their own season-opening series.
So, taking the field with a team that was just in a coronavirus hotspot?
“There is some concern, I know guys have talked about it, but I think hopefully when the game is started, we put all that aside and we try to focus on baseball and play baseball.
“Once the game starts I try to just think about the game, and try to have fun doing what I love to do and watching these guys play.”
“We are in difficult times, we know that,” Martinez said. “I knew that coming in here, that this was going to be totally different than anything we’ve ever experienced. So, we’ve got to just roll with the punches and see how far we can go.”
For now, according to reports this afternoon, MLB has no plans to cancel the season even after the news from the Marlins and the two postponed games, so for now the show goes on.
“It’s tough,” Martinez acknowledged.
“Like I said, there’s a lot going on. Most important thing, and I said this before, is the safety of our players, our staff, my coaching staff, everybody here.
“This is my family. And I worry about each and every one of them. It’s definitely tough to sleep at night. I’ve struggled already in the past.
“But now it’s — you wake up every morning, and a lot of times you’re waiting for test results back, and you’re sitting there saying, ‘Man, I just hope everything comes back negative. You think about yourself and you think about the players.
“That’s always in the back of your mind, then you’ve got to put that aside and you’ve got to go out there and get ready for a game, and get everybody ready to go and build that energy and play the game.
“I think these guys have done a really good job of putting everything aside when that game starts and going out there and giving their max effort, I really believe that.
“I hope that MLB sees that, that these guys are putting themselves at risk for the love of the game. They’re out here because they love to play the game.”
Martinez was clearly emotional throughout the pregame press conference. Has the latest news hit him particularly hard?
“One, we have to remember that we’re all human beings,” the manager said, “... and we’re playing through some tough times. I just want people to remember that. We have struggles. These guys have families. I have a family. We think about that stuff. So, with that being said, just remember that we’re doing the best we can.”