“ “Sports are like the reward of a functioning society.” ”
That’s Washington Nationals relief pitcher Sean Doolittle, speaking to reporters Sunday on the possibility of playing in front of fans at some point this season, while the coronavirus pandemic rages.
Doolittle questioned how there can be a return to normalcy when “normal” is still so far away.
“We’re trying to bring baseball back during a pandemic that’s killed 130,000 people,” Doolittle said Sunday, according to a transcript from Washington Post sports reporter Jesse Dougherty. “We’re way worse off as a country then we were in March when we shut this thing down. And, like, look at where other developed countries are in their response to this. We haven’t done any of the things that other countries have done to bring sports back. Sports are like the reward of a functioning society. And we’re trying to just bring it back, even though we’ve taken none of the steps to flatten the curve.
“We did flatten the curve a little bit, but we didn’t use that time to do anything productive. We just opened back up for Memorial Day. We decided we’re done with it.”
A number of U.S. pro sports leagues, including Major League Baseball, are preparing to resume play, and some baseball team owners have suggested a limited number of fans could be allowed into stadiums to watch games before the season’s over.
While fans have been able to flock to rugby matches in New Zealand, which has nearly eradicated the virus, soccer leagues in Europe have resumed in empty stadiums. And coronavirus infections in Europe are drastically lower than in the U.S., which has seen record numbers of cases in recent weeks.
Doolittle said he didn’t know if it was safe for stadiums to open to fans. “I’m not a public health expert, but we should probably defer to them on some of these issues,” he said.
As baseball gears up to restart play, a number of prominent players — including Dodgers pitcher David Price and Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond — have already bowed out of the shortened season, citing unacceptable risks. Other star players, such as Angels outfielder Mike Trout and Giants catcher Buster Posey, say they haven’t made up their minds yet on whether to return. More than 30 MLB players have already tested positive for the coronavirus.
Doolittle mentioned how the Nationals still have not gotten the PPE gear they were promised, including N95 masks and gloves, and noted he still hasn’t gotten the results of a coronavirus test he took Friday.
Doolittle told reporters he was leaning toward playing, but could change his mind if he doesn’t feel safe.
“If there aren’t sports, it’s going to be because people are not wearing masks, because the response to this has been so politicized,” he said. “We need help from the general public. If they want to watch baseball, please wear a mask, social distance, keep washing your hands.”