Lightning on MLB Opening Day Reminds us That We are Still in the Middle of a Storm

After months of negotiations, Major League Baseball (MLB) started the 2020 season that they were bound and determined to have despite cases of COVID-19 surging from coast to coast, and more specifically surging within several cities that have MLB teams.

While I was watching the Opening Day game Thursday night, between the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees, an eerie sight of potential foretelling took place to remind us all that this is not a season like the others.

No, I am not talking about Dr. Anthony Fauci’s “just a bit outside” first pitch. I can only hope that I am in as good of shape as he is when I turn 79. While, Dr. Fauci is not the best at throwing pitches, thank goodness for all of us that he is adapt at not sugar-coating things and giving us the facts we need in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic.

The eerie moment occurred during an on-air interview with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred when the Washington D.C. skyline was filled with lightning. Manfred was unaware of the light show since it happened behind him, but he became aware of it when the thunder reached his ears.

Lightning, and related rain, led to the first game of the 2020 MLB season being called three innings early. At the time, I thought that it was fitting that a long-delayed season would have its first game end that way.
Photo R. Anderson

The lightning, and related rain, led to the first game of the 2020 MLB season being called three innings early. At the time, I thought that it was fitting that a long-delayed season would have its first game end that way.

By the time I was watching the Los Angeles Dodgers game, I had forgotten about the lightning. Instead, I was making preparations to write about the wayward Toronto Blue Jays finally finding safe harbor after being told that they could not play in Toronto or Pittsburgh due to concerns related to COVID-19 spread.

While the Baltimore Orioles offered to share their nest at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, a Triple A Ballpark within the Blue Jays organization in Buffalo, New York was chosen as their home for the 60 game in 66 days season; despite the players noting their desire to only play in an MLB Ballpark.

With my sights set on chronicling the plight of the Blue Jays in mind, I sat down at my computer in the Gigaplex and was ready to let the words fly from my fingers onto the screen. That was until the giant thunder clap briefly knocked out the power, and took out the Wi-Fi and cable connections.

The storm lasted all of 60 seconds, and included only that single bolt of lightning and related thunder. As quickly as the sky turned dark as night, the sun returned. It was as if the storm had never even been there aside from the lack of Wi-Fi and cable to remind me.

As I was resetting all of the Gigaplex clocks, suddenly the lightning in Washington, D.C. the night before was back in my mind. I realized that the lightning was a metaphor for the season of baseball in the middle of COVID-19. Much like Commissioner Rob Manfred, I did not see the lightning because my back was turned, but I heard the thunder.

The Texas Gulf Coast was under a Tropical Storm watch for much of the day, but when the storm track shifted south of me it became an out of sight out of mind event. I went about my day as if there was not a storm churning in the Gulf of Mexico with the possibility of rain bands stretching to my side of Texas.

So, when that lone lightning bolt did arrive, and leave as quickly as it popped up, there was no one more surprised than me. I have lived through many storms, and as far as I can recall I have never seen a storm of a single lightning bolt but as my mother said, “it only takes one.”

COVID-19 is a lot like lightning. We can try to turn our backs on it and play baseball, or go out to eat, or do whatever else we used to do when the world was open, but even if we have our backs turned and ignore it, the thunder will remind us of its presence.

While we cannot fully control the strength and ferocity of lightning, there are some pretty easy steps that we can take to starve the COVID-19 virus of the fuel it needs to spread. Thinking of these mitigation steps as medical lightning rods if you will.

Wearing masks, washing hands, socially distancing, and avoiding large gatherings are such simple steps to stop the spread. Sadly, despite the simplicity of these things, there are still people who feel they are immune to the CVOID-19 virus, or that they would rather die free than be forced to wear a freedom stealing mask.

I have said it before, and it bears saying again, you know what steals a person’s freedom? Being dead from the COVID-19 virus because they refused to wear a mask, and just had to go to that house party, or whatever other gathering was deemed so important.

The Baltimore Orioles offered to share their nest at Oriole Park at Camden Yards with the Toronto Blue Jays. Ultimately, a Triple A Ballpark in Buffalo, New York was chosen as their home for the 60 game in 66 days season Time will tell whether the Blue Jays, and the other 29-MLB teams, are able to get through a season played in the middle of a global health crisis.
Photo R. Anderson

There are a growing number of stories of younger people infecting their grandparents, and in some cases leading to the death of their loved ones.

That is certainly something you would not want to put in the annual Christmas letter, “Hello friends, this year I was selfish and went to a house party in the middle of a pandemic, and as a result Grandpa is dead.”

Personally, I do not want to risk the guilt of thinking that my actions of needing to socialize led to someone else’s death. But if someone feels that they absolutely have to go out, I hope they remember how thunder and lightning work. By the time you hear the thunder, the damage has already been done by the lightning.

The MLB season was greeted by lightning on Opening Night. Time will tell whether the pandemic’s lightning of cases among the players, or hot spots where games are to be played, allow for the full season to take place.

MLB really wants to be able to unfurl the proverbial “Mission Accomplished” banner after crowning a 2020 World Series Champion.

I just hope when the dust settles it was all worth it, and they aren’t having to write about anyone dying as a result of being hellbent on playing baseball in a time of COVID-19. From where I am sitting right now, the risks of trying to crisscross the country far outweigh any benefits.

That is not to say all is doom and gloom. The COVID-19 storm will pass and there can be joy in Mudville once again. One of the best things about a thunder storm, is the double rainbow that is left behind to remind us that storms are temporary and there are better days ahead.

Of course, those better days will only come if we all do our part. So just wear a mask, and practice social distancing. Laying off an off speed pitch is hard, wearing a mask is easy.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to ponder why there are so many songs about rainbows.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

Dr. Fauci to Throw Out First Pitch for Nationals as MLB Social Experiment Begins

The 2020 Major League Baseball (MLB) season is set to begin tomorrow as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise from coast to coast like a perverse purple mountain majesty.

If one is convinced to play baseball in the middle of a global COVID-19 pandemic, it makes sense that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, would throw out the first pitch in the home opener for the Washington Nationals tomorrow as they begin the defense of their World Series title, and MLB begins a social experiment on whether baseball can be played outside of a bubble.

While the role of throwing out the first pitch in the Ballpark closet to the White House historically falls to the President of the United States, it is fitting that the man polls show is trusted by more Americans to lead them out of the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic would be the one throwing out the first pitch of a season that promises to be like no other season that has come before it.

It should be noted that until the current administration ended the tradition, every president since William Howard Taft had thrown out a ceremonial first pitch. Taft started the tradition on April 14, 1910, at National Park in Washington, DC. during a game between the Washington Senators and the Philadelphia Athletics with a pitch to Walter Johnson. The Nationals invited the current administration to continue the tradition in 2017 but they declined, and the team stopped asking.

While the over a century tradition of presidential first pitches came to an end, it is a great gesture by the Nationals to bestow the honor upon Dr. Fauci who, as a true fan of the team, has been wearing a Washington Nationals mask for weeks now.

While there are likely to be detractors who will try to discredit Dr. Fauci, or say he should have better things to do with his time than go to a Ballpark, I say let the man pitch, and I hope he throws a strike to someone dressed up like baby shark.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will throw out the first pitch in the home opener for the Washington Nationals tomorrow as MLB begins a social experiment on whether baseball can be played outside of a bubble as COVID-19 cases spike. Here’s hoping he throws the ball to Baby Shark.
Photo R. Anderson

I also say that we need to continue to listen to his science-based guidance to help us navigate these turbulent politically charged waters where even the act of wearing a facial covering, or mask, has become politicized. COVID-19 does not care if people have grown tired of it or choose to ignore it.

The same group that popularized red hats with white lettering as a way to self-identify as an ardent fan of the current administration could have done a world of good early on in this pandemic had they designed their own red mask with white lettering to “make masks great again.”

I have no doubt that had masks been embraced early on from the occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., we would have had fewer deaths from COVID-19, and we would not be leading the world in cases while having to watch sporting events on television instead of the Ballpark.

The same group that popularized red hats with white lettering as a way to self-identify as an ardent fan of the current administration could have done a world of good early on in this pandemic had they designed their own red mask with white lettering to “make masks great again.”
Photo R. Anderson

Instead of thinking of a mask as something the hinders personal freedom, people should think of a mask as a ball cap for their face.

Just like wearing a ball cap protects your scalp from the sun, a mask protects both the wearer and those around them from catching a disease.

Speaking of the consequences of not wearing masks, and following public health guidance, thanks to the virus spiraling out of control like a kayak trapped in an eddy, there likely will not be any football this fall.

Sure, some leagues are not willing to say that yet, but all signs point to no fall sports which will result in billions of dollars in lost revenue from industry tied to professional and collegiate football.

One of the great joys I get each fall is waking up and watching Lee Corso and the ESPN College Game Day crew every Saturday morning. But, thanks to COVID-19 there will likely be no College Game Day this year. Or, if there is, it will look vastly different from years past.

I mean there is no way that students are going to be packing in like sardines waving their signs in the middle of a public health emergency that currently has the upper hand based on a lack of consistent coast to coast containment steps. It is also highly probable that many of those campuses will not even have students on them as schools are likely to continue remote learning as a way to keep students and staff safe.

It should be noted that it did not have to be this way. While, looking back and playing the if only game, is rarely productive, just think if only people had worn masks back in April how much more likely it would be that there would be football come September.

While the jury is still out on whether football will happen in the fall, starting tomorrow there will be 60 MLB regular season games in 66 days. The Toronto Blue Jays have still not announced where they will be playing their home games, but virus willing, a full World Series Champion will be crowned at the end of the shortest MLB season ever. Let the asterisking of the record books commence.

Aside from accepting a shortened season as being equivalent to a full-length season, MLB fans are being asked to swallow a lot this season. From empty ballparks with pumped in crowd noise and cardboard cutouts of fans, to a universal designated hitter, it is clear this season amid the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t like the seasons of old.

One other change to the season involves the unmistakable presence of a Nike swoosh logo on the player uniforms.

Despite minoring in Advertising and Public Relations in college, I cringe every time a new revenue stream is created that distracts from the game. Granted, a Nike swoosh in and of itself is not that different from what other sports leagues show. However, a swoosh is a slippery slope to the MLB embracing soccer style uniforms where team names are replaced by corporate sponsors. I truly hope MLB does not head that route.

I am all for sports leagues making money, but there need to be limits to just how far they are willing to go lest a baseball uniform turn into a NASCAR style driver fire suit.

Speaking of revenue streams, with fans unable to go to the Ballpark to buy some peanuts and Cracker Jacks, it seems fitting that a new seventh inning stretch song be selected to properly capture the ambiance of what the 2020 MLB season is all about since there is little sense in singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” when going to the Ballpark is not an option.

With that in mind let me suggest a classic song from the 1971 Academy Award nominated musical Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The song, which I believe totally captures the current response to COVID-19 in the United States, is titled, “Wondrous Boat Ride.”

It goes as such. Feel free to sing along.

The current COVID-19 climate and lack of a coordinated national response makes it feel like we are all on a “Wondrous Boat Ride” with Willy Wonka.
Photo R. Anderson

There’s no earthly way of knowing

Which direction we are going

There’s no knowing where we’re rowing

Or which way the river’s flowing

Is it raining, is it snowing

Is a hurricane a-blowing

Not a speck of light is showing

So the danger must be growing

Are the fires of Hell a-glowing

Is the grisly reaper mowing

Yes, the danger must be growing

For the rowers keep on rowing

And they’re certainly not showing

Any signs that they are slowing

Yes, COVID-19 is showing little sign of losing steam, yet the rowers who want to act like there is nothing to see here keep on rowing and trying to reopen at full speed.

A few weeks back, I mentioned the need for us to feed the right wolf if we are to get out of the current situation. Perhaps, instead of feeding the wrong wolf, people who are denying the existence of COVID-19 are listening to the wrong Oompa Loompa.

As for me, I am going to listen to Dr. Fauci and the other scientists who know a thing or two about pandemics and infectious diseases.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go see a man about a Golden Ticket.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson