Some MLB owners believe fans will be able to attend games in a limited capacity this season, but Washington Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle questioned if that was a good idea.
The 33-year-old right-hander, already skeptical about playing the season, gave a thought-provoking answer about not just fan attendance, but sports in general, as MLB Summer Camp commenced this weekend in baseball’s first step to return amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I do think it brings to mind kind of where we’re at in our response to this as a country,” he said, per Jesse Dougherty. “Like we’re trying to bring baseball back during a pandemic that’s killed 130,000 people. We’re way worse off as a country than we were in March when we shut this thing down.
“And like, look at where other developed countries are in their response to this. We haven’t done any of the things that other countries have done to bring sports back. Sports are like the reward of a functioning society. And we’re trying to just bring it back, even though we’ve taken none of the steps to flatten the curve, whatever you want to say.”
MLB suspended spring training on March 12 – just as COVID-19 cases began to exponentially spike in the U.S. and other professional sports leagues began to shut down.
But cases in the U.S. have hit record highs over the last few weeks, coinciding with MLB and other pro sports attempting to restart its seasons.
“We did flatten the curve a little bit, but we didn’t use that time to do anything productive,” Doolittle added. “We just opened back up for Memorial Day. We decided we’re done with it. Like, if there aren’t sports, it’s going to be because people are not wearing masks, because the response to this has been so politicized.
“We need help from the general public. If they want to watch baseball, please wear a mask, social distance, keep washing your hands. We can’t just have virus fatigue and keep thinking: ‘Well it’s been four months, we’re over it, this has been enough time, right? We’ve waited long enough, shouldn’t sports come back now?’ No, there are things we have to do to bring this stuff back.”
Doolittle is not the only MLB player concerned with the season. Many have already opted out while others, such as Cardinals reliever Andrew Miller, wonder if the season will even happen despite the plan and protocols in place.
“And now you want to bring fans back?” Doolittle continued. “Is that safe? I don’t know. I’m not a public health expert, but we should probably defer to them on some of these issues. So I don’t know if it’s safe or not. I really don’t know. But that doesn’t seem like something that … I don’t know if that feels like a good idea or not.”
While Doolittle is present at Nationals camp, he is still unsure if he will play this season. His wife, Eireann Dolan, has a chronic lung condition – putting her at higher risk of developing complications if she were to be infected with COVID-19.
Doolittle also cited his own mental health as another reason he could possibly opt out.
“I might go crazy before anything else,” he said. “…You’re almost waiting for more bad news.”