How COVID-19 Impacted minor league baseball

Cleveland Indians prospect Tyler Freeman connecting on a pitch at the alternate site during the 2020 MLB Season

When COVID-19 swept across the United States, nobody knew the ramifications it would bring with it. It hit the sports industry hard, but it hit baseball players partaking in Major League Baseball’s spring training harder.

The Cleveland Indians shortstop Tyler Freeman was one of many individuals left in shock when they heard the news that COVID-19 put a halt to the 2020 Spring Training.

“I remember sitting in multiple meetings at our spring training facility by our medical and head staff, emphasizing how to prevent ourselves from getting COVID-19,” Freeman said. “Never did we think we would be sent home because of it.”

Little did these players know that it wouldn’t be until July that they would do anything team-related again after they got sent home from Spring Training.

When the players got word that they would be able to partake in baseball activities, they knew things would be different.

Players were asked to quarantine at a hotel for a couple of weeks, and once they were cleared, they were only allowed to ride to the ballpark with one other person. 

For the Cleveland Indians, the alternate site was the Laker County Captains (Class A affiliate) Classic Park, located in Eastlake, Ohio.

“We had to adjust to it,” Freeman said. “We had to get temperature checks daily and COVID-19 spit tests every other day.”

The Cleveland Indians divided daily schedules into two groups, an afternoon group and a SIM  game group scheduled for later in the afternoon.

Players within the alternate site had quite a busy schedule. They often woke up, ate breakfast, and went to the field for COVID-19 testing before participating in baseball activities. 

Even after a hectic morning, these players were able to participate in the sport they loved. They were able to take the field for defensive work and hit on the field and in the cage. 

These activities brought normalcy back into their lives.

“For the most part, we had a great attitude about it, and we just wanted to keep finding ways to get better,” Freeman said.

Throughout the 2020 MLB season, multiple players stationed at the Cleveland Indians alternate site were called up to the active roster. Those players include RHP Triston McKenzie, LHP Kyle Nelson, and OF Daniel Johnson.

“When you saw guys getting called up that were literally lockers away, it would get us so pumped up and so excited,” Freeman said.

With the modified baseball season, nobody knew what was going to happen. Any of the individuals at the alternate site could have been called up. 

Nonetheless, it was an opportunity these guys will forever cherish as they were able to witness their friends/teammates make their major league debuts.

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