Take me out anywhere, if not to a ball game

© Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Art Spander

Take me out... not necessarily to the ball game, although that would be quite acceptable, because Thursday was opening day. Or, sigh, should have been.

Baseball, all sports, the so-called toy department of life, is now secondary to, well, life and death itself.

To a frightening disease, the coronavirus, which has us trapped in our homes, frustrated, even terrified.

Instead of hearing an umpire yell “Play ball,” we hear announcers telling us to shelter in place. Instead of statistics like earned run average or home runs, we’re getting hospital bed counts.

We’re confused, disappointed. It’s not forever, but right now it seems that way.

We lost the NCAA tournament, then the NBA and NHL suspended play. Baseball is on hold. So are all four major golf events. The French Open has been moved from June to September, the 2020 Summer Olympics to 2021, and possibly the World Series deep into football season.

Training and practice plans upended, travel plans messed up, young athletes' hopes dashed.

The abnormal — basketball in July, a Grand Slam tennis tournament in October, maybe baseball in November — will become the new normal, if only for this bewildering year of 2020.

It’s all problematic, all dependent on how much progress can be made against the virus, a decision that, with the president telling us we’re in control and the medical people telling us we’re not, is not to come easily or quickly.

Mark Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks, said he hopes the NBA season restarts in May — although he concedes it may not be until June. Yes, that’s when a usual NBA season is finished. Usual is not to be considered.

It was, what, only six weeks ago when the issue was whether the Lakers could beat the Clippers and if the Milwaukee Bucks could beat the Lakers. Then the virus appeared. Then it was decided to hold games without fans. Then it was learned Rudy Gobert had contracted the virus. We haven’t had a game since.

“Sports play an important role,” said Cuban about the return.

Unquestionably. It’s a large part of your world, my world. Our daily rhythms seem dependent on sports. We get up to check the scores we may have missed, we search the schedules to learn what will be on TV and when.

We’ve been forced to seek alternatives — although only on TV, because the clubs and theaters are closed. That basically limits us to ESPN, and some of the stuff is excellent — the eight-hour series “OJ: Made in America,” for example, if a four-year-old rerun.

The problem, understandably, is that nothing is current, unless you count the endless yammering about the NFL draft. I mean a game where someone is hitting a 30-footer or a slap shot or a line drive between the fielders. The virus has the upper hand.

We’re told that will be reversed, although who knows when: possibly May, June, July. Nobody will just walk out or jog out and begin. For baseball, there will be camps and exhibitions, a repeat of spring training.

The commissioner, Rob Manfred, told ESPN's Scott Van Pelt that teams will play as many games as possible, although far from the scheduled 162.

Someone wondered why there can’t be a lot of seven-inning doubleheaders, harkening back to the old Pacific Coast League, before the Giants and Dodgers came west from New York in 1958. PCL teams would play in one city for a week: Tuesday through Friday nights, Saturday afternoon and then on Sunday a doubleheader, the first game nine innings, the second seven.

Don’t think that would work, even under the situation.

“There are certain numbers associated with baseball,” Manfred said, “and one of those is nine innings for a game, not seven.”

Otherwise we’d have a fifth-inning stretch.

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