NEW YORK -- Clint Frazier opted not to remove his mask while participating in a batting practice group last week. He kept it on when intrasquad games started at the Yankees’ Summer Camp, and now that it has come to feel like “second nature,” the outfielder plans to continue wearing that face covering when regular-season games begin.
In the wake of positive coronavirus tests this month for teammates Aroldis Chapman, DJ LeMahieu and Luis Cessa, Frazier believes that sporting the protection during games could help to keep everyone around him healthy. He also hopes that it will set a good example for a general public that continues to grapple with the pandemic.
“I'm just trying to show that it's easy to do and it's the right thing to do,” Frazier said on Sunday. “If it helps a little bit, it's not hard to do, so I'm going to try to do it as much as I can. Hopefully someone sees it and maybe they do it, too.”
The Yankees’ players are required to wear masks while they are in the clubhouse, and non-playing personnel must use them in the dugouts and bullpens, though active players have the option of removing it during games. Thus far, Frazier has been the only Yankee to take an at-bat while wearing a face covering, though many are using them during workouts.
“You know, there are two people in the [batter’s] box with me and they are close in proximity,” Frazier said, referring to the catcher and umpire. “I'm obviously here because I want to play, but we do have stuff that's going on around us. There's a lot of people that have had this impact them in a way, and there are people in our organization that I'm trying to be respectful towards. I want to make sure that I'm not the reason why it spreads to anybody.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he applauds Frazier’s effort, though he has no plans to suggest that the entire team wear face coverings during games. The new requirements have presented challenges for Boone as well; the other day, he said that he caught himself leaving a room without a mask and had to dash back to his Yankee Stadium office to grab one.
“Anyone that feels like they can go out and perform with that mask is a great thing and something that we're certainly going to support,” Boone said. “It seems to work for [Frazier] and doesn't seem to be a distraction for him. More and more, I've seen guys that are out in some of their catch play or when they're not in game action, they're starting to wear them a little bit more. Maybe it does graduate to wearing it when they're in the midst of competition. We'll see.”
Frazier, who turns 26 in September, appeared as though he would log significant playing time before the pandemic shortened the season. With Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton all expected to be absent from the Opening Day lineup back in March, Frazier would have been a likely choice to fill in, though that opportunity vanished as the months of April, May and June peeled off the calendar.
Now, Frazier is part of a crowd that also includes Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman, Miguel Andújar and Tyler Wade, all of whom have seen time in the outfield during Summer Camp.
“It was frustrating. I knew that my playing time was probably going to be limited the longer that the layoff went on,” Frazier said. “But those guys play a really big part in our team. I want to play, but I don't want it to be at the expense of somebody being injured. I want to earn it. I feel like it's going to be a pretty bittersweet moment if that happens.”
Frazier has been limited in camp due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot, which he said bothered him during Spring Training and was diagnosed during the pause. As such, Frazier has not yet played the outfield in an intrasquad game, though Boone said he expects Frazier to run the bases on Monday. Frazier said that he will consider wearing a mask while playing defense as well.
“Obviously, we have a big platform while we’re here, and then the Yankees make the platform two times as big,” Frazier said. “A lot of people are watching.”