If baseball is to be played this season, it would be a cleaned-up version of the game, a sanitized style for a period of time in which the world has to be more sanitized than ever.
According to Gabe Kapler, that is a “tremendous challenge” for a sport that is notoriously dirty.
Gone would be the sunflower seeds, the chewing tobacco, the gum spitting — actually, all the spitting, according to safety protocols that MLB submitted to the Players Association, which has not yet volleyed back as the two sides negotiate a pact that would return teams to spring trainings perhaps next month, with games beginning in July.
In addition to myriad off-field plans, which involve quarantining at homes or hotels, the on-the-field product would reflect the strange world of the coronavirus pandemic. For Kapler, that would mean changing up a routine that he said dates back to 1999, his early years as a player.
“When the game begins I start with some coffee, it’s part of my routine,” Kapler said on “Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks” on Monday. “I quickly transition to gum — lots of gum, not just a couple pieces, a lot of gum. I don’t like the sweetness, but I like the size of the gum. My normal behavior is I spit a lot of the gum juice out.
“… From there I transition to seeds. Sunflower seeds in the middle of the game. As much as you can fit in your both — you’re just spitting the seeds on the ground. I’m not alone. So many players, staff have routines like the one I just described. Different, but similar. They’re all going to have to stop those routines. That is going to be a tremendous challenge.”
A postgame dugout is a gross place, sunflower seeds and cups and all sorts of liquids sprayed all over. Players and coaches learn young, and the game is as procedural and routine-based as any. Also as superstitious as any.
“When you’ve been doing it your whole life, it’s like breaking any habit. It’s going to be hard when things get stressful not to default to the habit,” Kapler said on KNBR. “But I can tell you this: Everybody’s going to be committed to doing it because it’s so worth it. The trade-off between giving up that habit and getting to play baseball, we’ll play baseball all day long.”