The team also has closed Nationals Park to players and staff, Rizzo confirmed, following guidelines set by D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D).
The Nationals had planned to use their spring training facility for a handful of remaining players, including any requiring treatment from team medical staff. That staff is still fully operational, Rizzo said, and is looking for places to see and work with injured players. When Rizzo last spoke with reporters March 20, 13 major league players remained in West Palm Beach, and the club planned to house players who could not return home safely amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Rizzo noted Monday that those 13 players are now self-isolated at home, whether that’s in the West Palm Beach area or elsewhere. The team is housing players from at-risk communities at local hotels, including a handful of minor leaguers from Venezuela. The Nationals have stayed in “constant communication” with players, according to Rizzo, and have helped craft creative workout routines.
The toughest part for the players is that all of the workout facilities are closed. The toughest part for everyone in baseball is that no one knows when the season will start — or if there will be a season at all.
“You’re getting the news that we’re getting from the commissioner’s office, from the CDC about the health of the nation and that type of thing,” Rizzo said. “We’re certainly cognizant of the seriousness of where we’re at in the world and specifically here in the U.S., so we’re certainly not taking that lightly.”
The Nationals share Ballpark of the Palm Beaches with the Houston Astros. As part of the team’s contract with the facility, the county has the right to use parts of it in times of emergency. Because only a portion of the complex will be used for testing, the Nationals could have kept their medical staff there to work with players, but they chose to remove themselves from the facility altogether.
“The location that is being utilized is far removed from all human contact that would be with players,” Rizzo said. “But we felt that in an abundance of safety and precaution, we decided to lock down the facility even for the players that were in rehabilitation mode.”
The sport shut down March 12, when Major League Baseball canceled the remaining spring training games and suspended the regular season for at least two weeks. At first, Nationals players continued to work out at the facility, arriving in small groups, taking hacks in the batting cage, playing catch on the otherwise empty fields. But the situation has worsened, day by day, and it is now clear that the delay will be much longer.
On Sunday, President Trump extended all social distancing guidelines to April 30. The number of coronavirus cases continues to rise nationwide. The Nationals, a tiny sliver of the equation, are addressing a logistical nightmare in stride. Without a facility and with no start date to plan for, the next step is finding somewhere in West Palm Beach for team doctors to treat the players.
“There’s a lot of things in the front office that we’re still doing and utilizing our manpower to do it,” Rizzo said. “We’re working from home. We’re on a lot of Zoom calls, both audio and video, as you would imagine, as the rest of the country is.”