ST. LOUIS -- Scheduling Spring Training in a typical year is a massive task of accounting for more than 70 players in Major League camp, catering to specific needs and monitoring everything from drills to the weather to the smooth running of camp. The Cardinals have it down to a
ST. LOUIS -- Scheduling Spring Training in a typical year is a massive task of accounting for more than 70 players in Major League camp, catering to specific needs and monitoring everything from drills to the weather to the smooth running of camp. The Cardinals have it down to a science, and they use the spaciousness of the facility in Jupiter, Fla., wisely, spreading players and drills across backfields, batting cages and bullpen mounds.
With 2020 being anything but a typical year, the Cardinals are turning Busch Stadium into a Summer Camp facility, where 45 players will have 3 1/2 weeks to train ahead of a 60-game season. Instead of six backfields, the Cardinals have one Major League field to use while adhering to social distancing as best they can and following the health and safety protocols MLB has put in place.
Wednesday was Day 1 of camp, with the first official workout set for Friday.
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“I don’t even know where to begin,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said on Wednesday when asked about stadium modifications to accommodate camp.
Let’s start at the entrance. Each tier of people allowed into the ballpark -- Tier 1 (the manager, coaches, players and other uniformed personnel), Tier 2 (support staff and baseball operations) and Tier 3 (stadium operations, media and broadcasting) -- has its own entry point, with temperature checks and surveys at each.
The Cardinals are using both home and away clubhouses and weight rooms to increase space between players’ lockers. Both home and away bullpens and dugouts will be used for work, too. The coaches’ room has been modified to create space when they meet, allocating some of the video room for the coaching staff. A “Zoom room” is being set up on the service level of the stadium for players to meet virtually with media. The lobby of the Cardinals' clubhouse is being converted to a doctor’s office, so if anyone -- including an umpire or a visiting player -- needs to see a doctor, they don’t have to run through the clubhouse to get there.
“There’s been tons of modifications,” Mozeliak said. “It feels like you’re re-inventing things.”
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When workouts begin on Friday, they will be staggered to maximize the space while also not grouping many players together. The Cardinals don’t expect to have any exhibition games ahead of the season, so instead they will have approximately eight intrasquad games, with the first being played on July 8. Manager Mike Shildt said that intrasquad games will feature protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 -- such as non-player personnel wearing masks in the dugout -- to help normalize them ahead of the season.
The Cardinals are doing all of this within their bubble with the hope and confidence that their players and staff will follow through outside the bubble. For the season to start and finish, everyone must buy in to protocols off the field. At their team meeting on Friday, the Cardinals will reinforce what players’ responsibilities are in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and lean on player leadership to encourage everyone to follow the protocols outside the ballpark.
“I don’t want to downplay it in any way,” Mozeliak said. “I want our players and our staff, people that are part of Tier 1, Tier 2, to really take responsibility for this.
“How you live your life, how you conduct your life outside of Busch Stadium, is going to be critical to the success of, really, Major League Baseball, let alone the Cardinals.”
The Cardinals have always said the goal remains the same regardless of how many games they play: to win a championship. So finishing the season will mean safely getting through all the curveballs the coronavirus pandemic has thrown. This season -- although radically shorter and different than any other -- could have even more weight to it than a 162-game season.
“There’s a lot going on, and the test has always been there physically and mentally,” Shildt said. “And that’s what makes our game, at least for me, so special. To be able to achieve things individually, but more importantly, as a team. There’s more of that. There’s more of the hurdles, more dynamics, more things that are required of people’s energies and mindsets. So the ability to work through all the different obstacles, which we see as challenges, and end up being a champion would be super gratifying.”
Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.