Baseball is sure to look different when (and if) play resumes following the coronavirus outbreak. With players and teams likely to practice social distancing, or at least to the best of their abilities, the idea of a traditional locker room setting could fall by the wayside. Though unconventional, Orioles great Cal Ripken thinks drastic measures to preserve player safety are necessary at a time like this.
“I think everyone will adjust,” said Ripken during his appearance Tuesday on The Rich Eisen Show. “I don’t know what clubhouse camaraderie is. To me, chemistry and camaraderie is built out there on the field.” Ripken, a Hall of Famer who spent his entire 21-year career with the Baltimore Orioles, remembers a time when MLB clubhouses were buzzing, but those days are mostly over.
“When I go to a locker room after the game now—and it’s not very often—ten minutes after the game everybody’s gone,” said Ripken of today’s locker-room culture, or lack thereof. “They go their separate ways. They’re in and out.”
Ripken knows challenges lie ahead, expressing that playing in empty stadiums could take some getting used to. “There’s nothing like having that element, that environment,” said the former American League MVP. “That’s the difference in playing in the minor leagues a lot of times in front of hardly anybody and then come to the big leagues and you have to make an adjustment.” But whatever form MLB returns in this year, Ripken is confident players will catch on to changes quickly.
“It will be different,” Ripken conceded. “But I think everybody will respond to the challenge that’s put before them.” With post-COVID locker room access likely to be limited, could we see a scenario where players actually come to the park in their game uniforms? Funny you should ask.
“Brady Anderson, when he lived downtown in Baltimore, he wanted to time it just perfectly so he would rollerblade over in his uniform with sweats over top,” said Ripken, recalling how his former teammate would arrive to Camden Yards. “He made a grand entrance to stretching quite a few times.”
“It would take us back to our amateur days,” said Ripken, envisioning baseball without clubhouses. “Where you’re driving in a car and you go up and play, and you go home.” It won’t be an easy fix by any means, but if baseball hopes to return in any capacity this season, these are the kind of concessions that will have to be made.