DUNEDIN, Fla. – Amid growing concern over the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, the Toronto Blue Jays began their Sunday with a meeting that had nothing to do with baseball. Players and staff gathered at TD Ballpark to listen to a presentation by head athletic trainer Jose Ministral and discuss health and safety precautions.
The meeting underscored the importance of basics like handwashing, but unlike their counterparts in the NHL, the Blue Jays aren’t planning any drastic changes to their day to day interactions with fans and media.
“We have to inform the players about what’s going on,” manager Charlie Montoyo said, “but nobody’s talked about not signing autographs or anything like that.”
Player representative Matt Shoemaker said he and his teammates have discussed the possibility of pre-signing some balls and baseball cards for fans. At the same time, the research he has done leads him to believe more drastic measures aren’t needed.
“It’s a terrible thing,” Shoemaker said. “Everybody: stay clean, wash your hands, (do) common sense stuff. I don’t want to speak too much on it since I’m not a doctor, but I’ve done some research on it because there’s a lot of fear out there. My personal opinion is that there doesn’t need to be that much fear.”
“You go about your days the same,” he continued. “Wash your hands. Be clean. If you need to sneeze or cough, cover it up.”
While the NHL will close dressing rooms to media based on the recommendation of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MLB teams aren’t going that far.
“We are undertaking many precautions currently,” a league spokesperson said. “For example, we are asking anyone — including media — who has visited a high-risk area, as defined by the CDC, within the last 14 days not to visit our facilities.
“We are also discussing additional measures internally and with other leagues. At this time, we have not made changes to our media access procedures, and we will advise if we determine to take such steps.”
Players have not voiced any concerns about their safety, according to Montoyo. If anything, they’ve gone out of their way to help others, as starter Hyun-jin Ryu donated $100,000 to relief efforts.
“Obviously I’m very concerned,” he told Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae. “A lot of people are affected.”
The Blue Jays are hoping increased awareness and precautions will help limit the impact of COVID-19. In the meantime, the club continues working with Toronto Public Health to monitor the virus and follow recommended safety measures.