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Welcome to Summer Camp!

The San Francisco Giants opened up their Summer Camp Spring Training, as the team held their first practice at Oracle Park. It’s still a work in progress, but social distancing baseball had its first test run Friday after the sport shut down in mid-March due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

How will practice work?

With media in attendance, the first thing we saw was a workout schedule on the scoreboard. Divided up into groups (Group 1, Group 2, etc.), and then subgroups (pitchers and position players), each groups began the day with physicals before starting their workouts.

As shown in their preview video, the Giants have converted different areas of the ballpark into stations for batting cages, pitching mounds, locker rooms, etc.

Every player is wearing a mask as they rotate from station to station. Lots of elbow-bumps, very little baseball-isms. It was quite weird, but seeing how everything was set up was an encouraging sign for how this was going to work. Everyone seemed to follow the guidelines, and that will be extremely important for the success of playing baseball, or any sport, in the middle of a pandemic.

Giants starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija had this to say about the first day back, and if there was any normalcy to the experience:

“We’ve broken it up into three groups of 20, 10 hitters and 10 pitchers. That’s just the way things are going to be now, I think we need to stop holding on to the past and understand what the new norm is, and adjust to that new norm. Until we’re told differently, that’s the way it’s going to be. I think you need to put all excuses aside and do what you need to do to be allowed to go out there and play, and when you go play, put everything behind you and get the job done on the field and try and win a ballgame. Are there a few more hoops to jump through at the end of the day to get that “W”? There is, but that’s what everyone wants.” 

As a player, what will be the hardest habit to break on the field? Both Samardzija and Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford said that spitting will definitely be the hardest habit to break.

For anyone who has played baseball, spitting is something a lot of players do without even thinking about it. Players are going to break those rules from time to time, but they’ll need to try to kick those habits.

With Friday being the first day back at Oracle Park, it was certainly a strange feeling for some more than others. Did anything really feel normal about today? Crawford discussed how it felt both different and slightly familiar at the same time:

“It definitely didn’t feel like a normal day at the ballpark. I guess I’m a little bit more used to this kind of schedule and breaking up into groups, because I’ve been working out down at Scottsdale Stadium. This is kind of the schedule we’ve been working with down there in small groups. Down there we were doing groups of four players at a time, and we would throw, run, hit, take ground balls, stuff like that. Basically what we did today. That part kind of felt normal, but obviously it didn’t feel like a normal first day at the park because we didn’t have most of the team here at the same time.”

Samardzija sounds off

Throughout his Zoom meeting with Giants media, Samardzija did not hold back when expressing his thoughts and opinions on the current climate around baseball, and the health protocols that have been implemented in response to Covid-19.

A long list of protocols have been created for players and teams to follow, and some of them are very unique, such as no spitting, no sunflower seeds, no shaking hands, no throwing the ball around the diamond after strikeouts, etc. Samardzija was asked if any of the protocols stood out to him, and spoke passionately about how important it is that everyone follow protocol and adhere to all of the guidelines:

“None of it. These are the sacrifices we need to make, I understand there are a lot of guys saying this and that about families. Listen, I have a family too, a lot of people that I don’t want to get sick. I have a grandfather that is over 90, my father just came off quadruple bypass, so everyone has things that they can list off that they’re worried about or that bothers them, and those are all things that we need to be worried about and protect ourselves from by social distancing here at the field. There’s ways that we can protect ourselves, everyone needs to stay in the hotels at night, and not go to dinner, not go to the bars, as hard as that is. It needs to happen, and we need to make sacrifices, it’s going to be a big word for this year. We have a job to do, and they’re paying us to do our job that we fought for, to be fully paid and to go out there and do our job, and we all want to do it. If you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to do it, we’ve made that very clear. If it bothers you that much and you want to use it as an excuse, then just don’t do it.”

Samardzija is one of very few players in the league who has experienced a major league game without fans. Back in 2015, when Samardzija was on the Chicago White Sox, they played the Baltimore Orioles in Baltimore during a time of intense police brutality protests where fans were not allowed to attend the game that day due to safety reasons.

When asked about playing without fans once again in 2020, Samardzija did not mince words when talking about the owners’ desire to fill the stands:

“I wouldn’t put the carriage before the horse there, I think there are going to be fans in the stands. I think we’ve seen with these owners, they’re not scared of anything, and they’re not scared to put anyone at risk if they get the opportunity to, especially if it makes them money. There’s going to be people in the stands, and they’re going to be socially-distanced in rows apart, and that’s the way it’s going to be. The owners have already said that’s what they want. But to the fans, I just want them to be safe too, and if that means that they have to watch us from home, then so be it.”

Notes

  • According to Giants manager Gabe Kapler, no Giant is opting out of playing this season so far, something we’ve seen from a few players around the league do already.
  • At the beginning of this week, the Giants announced outfield prospect Hunter Bishop was the first player in their 60-payer pool to test positive for Covid-19. Today, Kapler announced another player has tested positive.

When it comes to announcing positive test results, the Giants have decided to only announce positive tests as long as the player gives them permission to do so. They want to be transparent while respecting the player’s privacy. Both Bishop and Madero gave the team permission.

  • Giants relief pitcher and presumptive closer in 2020, Tony Watson, suffered a shoulder injury back in March. Kapler provided an update as Watson returned to the field.
Taylor Wirth

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