A young team like the Orioles is bound to have plenty of firsts both on and off the field, and the shortened 2020 season should be no different.
For third baseman Rio Ruiz and reliever Paul Fry, this would have been their first full seasons as fathers after welcoming babies last year. As it is, they relished the time at home with their families when the game was shut down and are keeping their newborns in the front of their minds as they return to Baltimore to restart their baseball careers.
It’s another unprecedented aspect of this summer for the Orioles, and one that provides some of the players a bit of extra perspective on their lives and careers.
“This whole thing has been unique,” manager Brandon Hyde said about a season that is scheduled for a delayed start because of the coronavirus pandemic. “We’ve talked a lot about it; as a club, how obviously we’re going to be as safe and healthy as possible not only for ourselves, our teammates, but for the people back at home.
“Our guys are very understanding of that, and are very receptive to it.”
For Ruiz, who along with his wife, Michelle, welcomed their son, Luca, last summer, the season not happening as planned meant much more transience than they were used to for their family. They remained near the team’s spring training home in Sarasota, Florida, with catcher Chance Sisco and his wife through the end of February, then drove to California and spent some time in Arizona before the season restarted, Ruiz said.
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“I think that the thing that my wife and I worry about most is our son — how he’s going to adjust to all the changes, all the different things he’s going to be seeing, the different places we’ve been staying at — all that,” Ruiz said. “That’s our biggest and main priority, how we’re going to take care of him and how we’re going to keep him safe throughout all of this.”
For Fry, whose wife, Paige, had their son, Forrest, in October, the shutdown meant more quality time at home than he ever could have anticipated when the Fry family came to Florida for spring training this past winter.
“I think it’s been actually helpful this whole time, having perspective and being home with Forrest and my wife and going through the motions every day and being there. You take it for granted honestly during the season,” Fry said. “Yesterday was my first day here at the stadium away from him for that long besides the first spring training or whatever. It was kind of crazy to think about. I almost felt guilty for having to go to the field, and coming home and he’s already eaten twice, bathed and stuff. It’s been great, and puts things into perspective for sure.”
Fry said he was always hopeful there would be a season, even if the information he got at certain times made that seem like it wouldn’t happen. But once plans were solidified and players were summoned to rejoin clubs this week, he said he “wasn’t apprehensive at all.”
Those with young families who are coming to the ballpark every day will be putting their trust in their teammates and the rest of the organization that they’ll be following protocols and ensuring those with families at home waiting for them every night won’t be put at risk by association.
“I don’t know how hard it will be for other guys, I can only speak for myself,” Fry said. “But we’re going to police each other. We’re going to hold each other accountable. We’re not going to have guys going out to bars and on the road, going to clubs and stuff like that. We’re just going to be a tight-knit group I think. The only challenges I think we’ll face are stuff we can’t really control, and that’s for anybody really during this time. I’m just excited to get back out there and get this 60-game sprint in.”
Hyde said: “it’s obviously a concern for everybody, your family members that are home and protecting them as well.”