Sports

In the absence of Opening Day, MLB players are stepping up to the plate to fight COVID-19

The lack of baseball on what should be Opening Day is palpable, almost tangible. Regional sports networks around the country are airing classic games for fans to relive. Reporters are taking to social media to share their favorite Opening Day photos — can I interest you in a 1980s Ken Rosenthal, Tim Kurkjian and Richard Justice throwback? — as well as stories and memories from covering season openers. Jameson Taillon, Marcus Stroman and dozens of other players are also sharing past Opening Day moments and reaching out to fans at a time when we all pine for normalcy. #OpeningDayAtHome is trending on Twitter.

“Even though we are apart, we can come together,” says Mike Trout at the end of a poignant video package produced by Major League Baseball. It’s a sentiment that’s not only being articulated by the game’s best player in that clip but one that has been embodied by players and teams throughout the game. As the COVID-19 pandemic has uprooted our daily routines, fundamentally changed the manner in which we socialize and brought to light the myriad elements of our lives that are far too easily taken for granted, the baseball community has endeavored to lend a helping hand in countless ways.

The California Strong Foundation, founded by Christian Yelich, Mike Moustakas, Ryan Braun and Rams quarterback Jared Goff, announced that it will be donating 100,000 meals to Feeding America. Jason Heyward
donated $200,000 to a pair of Chicago-based charities, while teammate Anthony Rizzo’s foundation has expanded its Hope44 Meals initiative to provide hot meals for patients and staff at Chicago hospitals (fans can contribute donations as well). Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler
is matching every dollar donated to Three Square Food Bank’s Coronavirus Emergency Fund, focusing on providing meals to children, seniors, veterans and furloughed workers. Freddie Freeman
has contributed $125,000 to a trio of Atlanta charities.

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Over in Pittsburgh, Pirates players took it upon themselves to support the local restaurant scene and support the city’s healthcare workers when buying 400 pizzas from local restaurants to feed the staff at Allegheny General Hospital. “We aren’t able to be up in Pittsburgh, but we wanted to let hospital workers on the front lines and local businesses that mean so much to our home city know that we’re thinking of them,” Taillon told Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It was a no-brainer from the players’ side.”

Recently retired players are stepping up, too. CC Sabathia’s charity is partnering with FreshDirect to donate boxes of food to children at the Boys & Girls Club in the Bronx. Dan Haren is auctioning off his collection of 300 bobbleheads and including a personalized note and anecdote pertaining to each player’s bobblehead; proceeds are being donated to the Children’s Action Alliance in Phoenix and to the Hollywood Food Coalition in Los Angeles — two charities to which Haren himself has already made sizable contributions in the wake of the pandemic. The Diamondbacks, White Sox, Athletics and others have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars each to various community initiatives.

The ways in which baseball has reached out to the community are too plentiful to list. (By all means, however, share additional acts of goodwill in the comments and on social media.) We all badly miss the crack of the bat, the pop of a fastball hitting the catcher’s mitt and the inherent drama of a pitcher protecting a one-run lead in the ninth inning. But at a time when it’s so easy to lament what we’re missing, we at MLBTR thought it pertinent to shine a light on the many, many ways that this game we all love and cherish can still make us feel good.

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Baseball will be back — whether it’s this summer, this autumn or even sometime in 2021. But the manner in which the athletes and teams that we love to follow, cheer and jeer are stepping up around the country and the globe serve to remind that the sport has evolved into more than a simple game. It’s a community and a collective agent of positive change that can inspire others and make a difference even when games aren’t being played. Stay safe, baseball fans.




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