LAKELAND, Fla. -- A hazy sun hung over TigerTown on Monday morning, heating up what was originally going to be the last full week of Spring Training. Instead, with training camps and the Major League schedule suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, Monday was the first day of a strange new reality for many.
In the middle of it was Matthew Boyd, the Tigers' representative for the MLB Players Association and a team leader for a relatively young pitching staff. His leadership has grown over the last year or two, but it has never been tested like this.
“What's going on is truly unprecedented,” Boyd said. “So with that, you have to adapt.”
Boyd said he played catch with Michael Fulmer, Daniel Norris, Bryan Garcia and David McKay on the main field at Joker Marchant Stadium. A group of hitters worked out on nearby Kaline Field. Both groups were limited in size to adhere to the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines about limiting large gatherings and maintaining social distance.
“As long as it's safe and we're keeping those workout groups smaller according to CDC regulations, we're able to use the facilities in Detroit and here,” Boyd said.
If a lot of players remain in Lakeland in the days to come, Boyd said, they might have to stagger workout times for similar reasons. But he doesn’t know, in part because he doesn’t know how many players are staying. He’s also weighing workouts at Comerica Park, depending on how many players go to Detroit to their regular-season housing.
“There is a level of uncertainty,” Boyd said, “just because no one really knows what's going to happen. We're in the same boat as the rest of the country. …
“I know a lot of guys are heading home, or heading to Detroit. There are also a lot of guys staying here. It’s kind of all over the place in terms of what guys are wanting to do. Today, we recommended just doing what's best for guys and their families and stay ready for when the bell does ring.”
After the workout was done, Boyd said he was talking in the workout room with Norris, trying to put a positive outlook on the dilemma.
“I'm sitting here talking with Daniel Norris about how this is an opportunity for us to get stronger,” Boyd said.
More from Boyd, who talked on a Monday morning conference call:
How many players were there Monday?
“Today we had pretty much everybody here, which was pretty cool. But there was a new mandate [from MLB] that the non-roster guys had to head home. And also there are guys who are away from their families right now, and they don't want to be stuck away from their families, especially for a long time. …
“There will be a contingent here, to some capacity. I know there will be a contingent in Detroit as well, to some capacity.”
What are you able to do at this point?
“For me, I've already been in contact with Chris Walter, our strength and conditioning coach, and my guys at Athletic Training Institute. [Pitching coach] Rick Anderson is still here. We talked with Rick and laid out a plan with a lot of pitchers. We're not going to do game situations or anything like that probably up until April, just based on the timeframe.”
Your family is in Lakeland. Are you guys staying?
“My family and I are up in the air. We're definitely not going back [home] to Seattle.”
How challenging of a role is this for you?
“Perspective is everything, right? There are people that have it a lot tougher than us right now, that are in a lot less fortunate situations. We’re very well-aware of that. It’s the hand we're dealt and we just have to go forward with it. You really can't live out of fear. But you have to do things that are smart. You live within those guidelines and live life the best you can.”
What is life like off the field right now? How much can you go outside, or are you stuck in your house?
“It's really not a whole lot. My wife and I aren't normally frequenting bars and restaurants very much. We went to church, which is probably the last time we’ll be able to go to church in person for a while. We had dinner with a friend. We’re going on walks around our neighborhood, playing in the backyard, having fun. We are in Florida, so we are able to make the most of it.”
How much do you feel for Minor League players right now trying to figure out their finances?
“This is going to be really hard. I know there’s guys on the big league side that don’t have a lot of big league time. These are guys that have obviously made more money than Minor Leaguers, and they’re looking for jobs right now. I think that speaks to some of the hardships that guys or young families do face when paychecks stop rolling in. …
“And it's not just us. It's people at the stadiums, people all around the game. Everybody is affected by this.”