MLB and Padres helping out in the face of a pandemic

Credit: CBS Sports

Credit: Padres

Major League Baseball and the San Diego Padres are doing much to assist those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

From a probable origin in a bat cave, the current version of coronavirus has morphed into a worldwide pandemic and affected every aspect of our lives, including Major League Baseball. Opening Day came and went with no call to “play ball.” Even more unsettling, no one can predict a return of baseball anytime soon. In the worst-case scenario, no professional baseball games will be played in 2020.

The United States now has the dubious distinction of leading the world in coronavirus cases. While other countries like South Korea have seen a peak and downward curve, the curve just keeps going up in the U.S. with no end in sight. Obviously, baseball seems downright insignificant in the face of a pandemic. But at the same time, the whack of the bat and the cheers of the crowd would be such a comfort right now.

Early on, MLB stepped up, beginning with a $30 million pledge (or $1 million per team) to help ballpark employees. The players themselves, who made a minimum of $555,000 last year, should be able to fend for themselves. Still, obviously, the ticket sellers, peanut vendors, grounds crew members, and others that keep the machinery moving will suffer without their paychecks.

The Padres have responded by helping out in a variety of ways in the community. Working with Computers 2 Kids, Padre volunteers will distribute equipment kids need to keep up with their studies at a time when schools have closed. Joining with Phil’s BBQ, the organization has provided food for employees of the San Diego Blood Bank, UCSD Health, and the San Diego Police Department.

On March 26 at 1:10 p.m., the time the home opener against the Colorado Rockies would have taken place, the Padres played “God Bless America” as a “symbol of solidarity with our resilient country and all of you during this time of crisis.” The team also released a letter to the Friar Faithful pronouncing the organization’s solidarity with “federal, state, and local authorities as they lead us through this time.” California currently leads the nation in confirmed cases of the virus, so the message could not be more timely.

In mid-March, MLB and the players association (MLBPA) pledged $1 million to FeedingAmerica.com and MealsonWheelsAmerica.org. On their website, MLB provides links to other charitable organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs and those supporting our overburdened, under-protected health care professionals for those of us who would like to donate.

Players, including former Padre Anthony Rizzo, have offered help as well.  Through his foundation, the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, he will expand his support of Hope44Meals efforts. The foundation has increased its support for hospital health workers and patients at Lurie’s Children’s Hospital in Chicago. Jason Heyward donated $200,000 to two other charities in Chicago, MASK Chicago and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Heyward told mlb.com that he was “trying to figure out how we could give something back to the community.”

The Astros’ sign-stealing scheme, which dominated much of the storyline in the offseason, has faded into a distant, more trouble-free past. Astros player George Springer will donate $100,000 to Minute Maid Park employees, and Alex Bregman, the same amount to the Houston Food Bank.

Freddie Freeman, the Atlanta Braves’ first baseman, will split $100,000 between the Atlanta Food Bank and Giving Kitchen, as well as $25,000 to the Salvation Army. St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler, a Las Vegas resident, has set up a matching fund for that city. Trevor Bauer of the Cincinnati Reds set up a GoFundMe page to benefit workers in all MLB organizations and contributed $10,000 to get the ball rolling.

Others, like David Freese, a former member of the St Louis Cardinals and 2011 World Series MVP, has taken to social media to urge people to exercise caution and practicing social distancing, one of the most important weapons against the spread of the virus. Even former players have chipped in, including Dan Haren. He decided to auction off his sizable collection of bobbleheads on eBay. He will also share his personal observations about each of the players represented in the bobbleheads with the recipients. Although he could have sent a check, Haren chose to give up pieces of his baseball past.

Fanatics, the company that turns out uniforms for teams, will instead focus on producing masks and gowns to be distributed in areas most affected by the virus in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The first mask rolled out with the fabric intended for the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees. As unbelievable as it may seem, the wealthiest country on the planet faces a shortage of over 3.5 billion face masks to help in the epic battle against the insidious virus.

With other sports shut down, owners and players have pledged their help in a variety of ways. Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, indicated he would aid employees who, behind the scenes, made each game possible, and Atlanta Hawks owner Tony Ressler has followed suit. Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers has committed $100,000. AEG, operator of Staples Center, will work with the Lakers and the Clippers to support workers. Susan and Henry Samueli, owner of the Ducks, will continue to pay all the employees, including part-time staff of the Honda Center.

Several pitchers, including the Padres’ Andres Munoz and Reggie Lawson as well as Noah Syndergaard (New York Mets), Tyler Beede (San Francisco Giants), Luis Severino (New York Yankees), and Chris Sale (Boston Red Sox)., have taken advantage of the hiatus and undergone Tommy John surgery. Munoz made his debut last season and struck out 30 batters in 23 innings. The surgeries did provoke some outcry for putting further strain on already overstretched hospital resources. Critics have also decried the fact that entire professional basketball teams have taken advantage of testing opportunities not available to ordinary mortals.

For all of us stuck at home who desperately need a baseball fix, we can access previous games at no charge through MLB.TV, MLB.com, and MLB’s offerings on YouTube when we aren’t washing our hands or trying to find hand sanitizer online. We can also binge-watch baseball movies or play catch in the back yard.

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Diane Calkins
Baseball has been a part of Diane's life since her father played professionally (mostly at the minor league level). She has written for a number of publications and concentrated on companion animal welfare. She welcomes the opportunity to write about the sport she loves. Diane shares her home with her husband and a house full of rescued animals.

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