FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Are you missing baseball? So are the players.
It’s been more than two months since Major League Baseball canceled its spring training due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the regular season has been on hiatus since then. Players have been back at home, still working out and staying in shape, while waiting for a season to start.
For Josh VanMeter, who plays for the Cincinnati Reds, he’s been back at home in Fort Wayne.
“I’ve been treating it like an extension of the offseason,” VanMeter said.
LISTEN: Full interview with Josh VanMeter of the Cincinnati Reds
The Norwell High School graduate, who once played for the Fort Wayne Tincaps, has been working out at a private facility in Waynedale. It’s owned by the Summit City Sluggers, a summer baseball team that he used to play for as a teenager.
“I’m pretty fortunate, having access to that facility,” he said. “Whether it’s doing conditioning or lifting weights or hitting. Although I’ve been doing it alone.” He says not every player has that type of opportunity since gyms and other training facilities have been closed during the pandemic.
While he’s eager for a baseball season, and misses his teammates and traveling across the country, VanMeter says he’s been taking advantage of the time at home.
“You know, I haven’t been back here this time of the year since I was, like, 18, or whenever I played for the Tincaps,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed my time home. You know, it’s more time with family, which is something I don’t get a lot of. I’m trying to find the positives in everything.”
The 25-year-old says he feels the same as every baseball fan, hoping a season is played this year.
“I think it would be good for the country,” he said. “I think there needs to be some sort of feeling of unity, and in my personal opinion, we just need sports back.” VanMeter says he’s tired of playing video games and watching old broadcasts of baseball and golf.
However, the future of baseball in 2020 doesn’t just solely rest on what the state and local officials say, or all of the safety precautions the MLB need to take. It might all come down to one thing — money.
Many reports say the owners and players’ union have been going back and forth about a deal that would have players take another pay cut due to the short season. Some players, like Blake Snell of the Tampa Bay Rays, have been very vocal about their opinions and say they wouldn’t play if they didn’t get their millions of dollars.
VanMeter, who was a rookie with the Reds last season, says he understands why some players are upset with the proposed deal.
“You have to get paid for your value,” he said. “I always said from the beginning, if we’re not playing games, we shouldn’t get paid, but if we are playing games, then we do need to be getting paid.”
At the same time, VanMeter says he understands why the public could view that as selfish on the players’ part.
“I don’t want to sound snobby about taking a pay cut, because there are a lot of people out of work in this country right now, and it’s a terrible situation.”
VanMeter says he thinks the original deal the players agreed to in March is a good deal that everyone should stick with. He says it’s a pro-rated deal, based on how many games are played in 2020. For example, if the shortened season was 81 games — half of what a normal MLB season is — then players would get half of their salary for the year
VanMeter says, at the end of the day, a deal better be made soon, because “the clock is ticking” on if there can be a season in 2020.
The MLB has also proposed new safety rules and regulations if there were to be a season, including players that aren’t active for that game to sit in the empty stands behind the dugout, and players not allowed to spit, or high-five.
“You don’t want to get it wrong,” VanMeter said. “Organizations don’t want to get it wrong, so I think they want to err on the side of caution.” VanMeter adds, however, that when he read the proposed rules, he thought some were “over the top.”
If games do get played this season, more than likely fans will not be allowed to attend, at least early on. VanMeter says that idea doesn’t sit well with him.
“I just couldn’t imagine playing in a Major League Baseball stadium with no fans.”
However, VanMeter says he understands it’s all about the safety of everyone involved, and says all of this will take some time to get used to.