Hurricane Irma was barreling its way up Florida's Gulf Coast on Sunday, just as the Tampa Bay Rays were making their way to their temporary "home" at Citi Field in Queens. On Monday, the Rays begin what in ordinary times would be considered a pivotal three-game series against the Wild
Hurricane Irma was barreling its way up Florida's Gulf Coast on Sunday, just as the Tampa Bay Rays were making their way to their temporary "home" at Citi Field in Queens. On Monday, the Rays begin what in ordinary times would be considered a pivotal three-game series against the Wild Card-leading Yankees. But for the Rays, for the Miami Marlins and for anybody with personal ties or friends or family in Florida or other areas in Irma's path, the hurricane has made many things that once felt important suddenly seem trivial.
"There's a lot of guys in this locker room who could wake up [Monday] and not have a place to live, me included," said Jake Odorizzi, who will start for the Rays on Monday. "I make Florida as my home in the offseason. So a lot of us wake up, and it's mass destruction or whatever it is, it's going to be tough to focus on a baseball game. So I'm more worried about the off-field things than with the circumstances at the game. Whoever shows up, that's fantastic. But I think a lot of people's focus is back home instead of New York."
As was the case with Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area mere days ago, the baseball world has been affected and afflicted by a powerful tropical cyclone dealing death and devastation.
As of Sunday night, Irma was considered a Category 2 storm with powerful rains and maximum sustained winds of 110 mph that had uprooted trees, caused rapidly rising water levels and knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of people. Sunday's Marlins-Braves game wasn't able to be broadcast on the Marlins flagship station because of technical problems caused by the hurricane.
Be it the disruption Irma has delivered to the season schedule, with the Rays' home series against the Yanks moved to not-so-neutral ground or the very basic distraction it has presented to players, the reports from Florida have been front-of-mind in Major League clubhouses. Players spent the weekend texting and calling loved ones in Florida, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and anywhere else in the path of the storm.
"I'm nervous," Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon said before Sunday's game in Atlanta, where he hit a pinch-hit home run. "My family is all down there. I texted my dad, talked to my sister and friends."
In preparation for Irma, the Marlins allowed family members to travel with the team on this road trip, which takes them to Philadelphia this week.
"I'm very thankful to the Marlins for letting my wife and kids travel with me," said left-hander Adam Conley, who has a home in Jupiter, Fla. "It's been important to us, to my wife and I, to explain to the kids what's going on. That there are people where we are in Florida, down in Miami, in Texas, and really all over the world, who are really in desperate need of help and saving ... teaching them the hurt in the world."
The Rays are the home team for the three games against the Yanks at Citi Field Monday through Wednesday, but they're in wait-and-see mode as to when they can return to their actual home at Tropicana Field. It is not yet known if their home series scheduled to begin against the Red Sox on Friday in St. Petersburg will go on as planned.
"We really don't know anything," Rays manager Kevin Cash said Sunday. "We're going to go to New York, play the schedule that's been presented -- 7 o'clock, 7 o'clock, 1 o'clock Wednesday, and then just kind of see where we're at. We're watching the storm just like you guys are."
With so many areas hurting because of the hurricane, players have found it impossible to go about their business as usual.
"I don't think I've ever been in a clubhouse where throughout the entire place, the Weather Channel is the most popular station in our clubhouse," Marlins catcher A.J. Ellis said. "We are spoiled rotten as professional athletes, professional baseball players. Any resource we need is at our disposal. And we will be accommodated and treated in a way that is first class and in a way we don't deserve.
"You can't think of yourself in a moment like this. You have to think about what people who are less fortunate are going to do. And you have to start thinking about what you're going to do to help pick up the pieces when it's over."
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.