The Nationals closed their FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches Spring Training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., to players and staff last week, and external parts of the complex are now being utilized for coronavirus testing after the National Guard took over the site on Sunday.
“The facility closed officially when the governor said all non-essential businesses must be closed,” general manager Mike Rizzo said on a conference call Monday. “We were deemed to be a non-essential business, so we adhered to the recommendations of the local government here. Within the FITTEAM Ballpark contract, the county has the right to utilize a portion of our facility for emergency use, and they decided to do that.”
Rizzo said no players have exhibited symptoms of the coronavirus, and none have been tested for it.
Thirteen players had remained in West Palm Beach following the suspension of Spring Training. Most of those players have homes in the area, and they are continuing their baseball work away from the complex.
“The location that is being utilized [for testing] is far removed from all human contact that would be with players,” Rizzo said. “But we felt that in an abundance of safety and precaution, we decided to just lock down the facility, even for the players that were in rehabilitation mode.”
Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., which had been an option for a training site, has also been closed in accordance with regulations.
The Nats staff has kept in daily communication with players during this time. Pitchers and hitters have been given specific programs to maintain and further their progress made during Spring Training. For those rehabbing from injuries, the medical team is scouting off-site locations to continue that recovery.
“They all have their plans in place,” Rizzo said. “There are some kind of inventive ways that they’re keeping in shape and conditioning and staying as ready as they can to participate in baseball, whenever that takes place.”
Rizzo reiterated the Nationals’ priorities during the coronavirus pandemic.
"We continue to rely on the CDC, the World Health Organization and MLB as our resources," Rizzo said. "We are certainly going to follow their protocols and their recommendations to the letter. And as the Commissioner [Rob Manfred] recently said, when it’s safe to play baseball, baseball will be back and our fans will be back, and it will be part of the recovery process in the country. But safety and health is paramount."