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Blue Jays aiming to keep fans, staff safe

Shapiro: Club 'trying to assist with broader community and societal challenges'
@KeeganMatheson
March 22, 2020

TORONTO -- With their staff and players mostly settled following the close of Spring Training, the Blue Jays are focusing on what they can control as baseball and the world around it deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Team president and CEO Mark Shapiro said on Sunday that no one in

TORONTO -- With their staff and players mostly settled following the close of Spring Training, the Blue Jays are focusing on what they can control as baseball and the world around it deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Team president and CEO Mark Shapiro said on Sunday that no one in the organization has been tested for coronavirus. Shapiro, along with some team staffers who were still at the club’s facility in Florida, took a charter flight back to Toronto on Wednesday. He is currently self-isolating.

What happens next depends on factors that stretch well beyond baseball’s reach, and that is driving the Blue Jays’ internal approach to the situation.

“There’s been a hierarchy to every single thing we’ve gone through,” Shapiro said. “Which is first at the human level, doing everything we can to keep our staff and our fans safe, healthy and largely complying and trying to assist with broader community and societal challenges.”

Only a small group of players still remain in Dunedin, Fla. Among them are 18 Venezuelan Minor League players and about a dozen others who, for a variety of reasons, are not able to return home. That includes Hyun-Jin Ryu, whose wife is seven months pregnant, as well as Shun Yamaguchi and Rafael Dolis.

A small staff is on site to ensure that facilities are open for players, but social distancing is being practiced at every level.

Players who have returned home can still easily communicate with the club’s training staff, which has arranged for everything from body-weight exercises for players alone in hotel rooms to more detailed plans for Major League players with home gyms. This isn’t a replacement for Spring Training, though, and Shapiro knows that another ramp-up period will be needed when the league is ready to resume.

For now, staying in peak physical shape isn’t a realistic goal.

“At this point, the physical exercise that they can do is as much about mental health and maintaining some semblance of normalcy and routine, and probably a little bit less baseball specific,” Shapiro said. “There’s almost no one who can maintain game-ready shape in light of these circumstances. That is not a priority at this moment.”

Shapiro, like anyone who plays, covers or follows the game, is also thinking about baseball’s role in a challenging global moment.

“We have overcome tragedy like 9/11. We’ve overcome wars [and] the Depression. Baseball has played a role in the healing and return to normalcy,” Shapiro said. “Particularly, obviously, for fans, but also for the broader community. It’s brought people together and it’s helped them return to a sense of normalcy and a sense of comfort. There will be a time that baseball returns, and there will be a time when baseball is capable of providing that outreach and that sense of community for all of us.”

Keegan Matheson is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.