Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support our critical reporting on the coronavirus by purchasing a digital subscription or donating directly to the newsroom.
Red Sox pitcher Collin McHugh is cautiously optimistic there will be baseball this year but believes some players may decide to sit out the season if they deem the safety risk is too high for them or their families.
Appearing on MassLive’s “The Fenway Rundown” podcast, McHugh said it’s possible individual players may opt to stay home instead of joining their teams once the MLB season gets underway.
“That’s a sincere possibility,” he said. “I’m a husband, I’m a father. There are many guys in the league with underlying conditions. With preexisting conditions, like diabetes and heart arrhythmias. You look at our coaching staffs, there’s tons of guys over 65. Umpires, there’s a lot of guys over 65. When you’re talking about the risk factors here, there are going to be some guys who sincerely have to weigh the risks of what it’s going to take to come back versus staying at home.”
McHugh, who signed with the Red Sox one week before spring training was shut down in March, has participated in conference calls with the MLB Players Association, which is currently working with the league to get the season underway soon.
“We’re in a situation right now where you can’t make this mandatory,” he said. “You can’t tell a guy you have to come play or else your roster spot is not going to be here when you come back. You can’t tell a guy to risk his life and the life of his family and the lives of anyone he chooses to be around to come play this game. There’s probably going to have to be some waivers signed and whatever else you need to have done to make guys feel comfortable coming back. Then, MLB and the teams are going to have to do everything in their power so that we go about this in the best way possible and don’t just start playing games, but really set an example of how to do this, how to do it well and how to do it safely.”
McHugh, who is married and has two sons, said his bar for leaving his family to play is undoubtedly higher than most players. Though he knows there will be at least some risk in playing no matter how the league moves forward, the right-hander said he needs to be assured the safety risk is minimal before he agrees to play.
“I’m probably in the minority here because I see baseball for what it is, which is an amazing game but not an essential activity,” McHugh said. “We’ve got a lot of things going on in this world that we need to happen and need to get going, and we need to do it in a safe manner. It’s going to be really hard to get the risk level down to zero no matter what we’re doing. As long as this virus is still out there and as long as we don’t have a treatment or vaccine, there’s going to be risk inherent in leaving your house. For me, as a major league baseball player and as a husband and father, I want to make sure I’m protecting myself and my family, first and foremost.”
MLB and the players union are discussing a wide range of possibilities as they look to begin the season, including potentially having teams play in functional isolation in designated sites like Arizona, Florida and/or Texas. One early possibility involved all 30 teams playing in Arizona but that idea lost momentum once some notable players, including Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw and Angels outfielder Mike Trout, said they’d be reluctant to leave their families for long periods during the season.
McHugh said the idea of leaving his family for weeks or months at a time was a “non-starter” for him.
“I think MLB leaked it as a focus group, if you will, via social media, and the response they got was pretty undeniable,” he said. “I think guys were not interested in coming back in a situation in which their lives would be turned upside down, once again, in order to play a game that is not essential right now. There are more things we need to get done before we play a baseball game.”
Watch: 6 ways you can prevent COVID-19