One more season? MLB veterans may have played final innings amid coronavirus uncertainty

A father in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, leaned away from his phone and said to his daughter, “Okay, the same rules. Stop sign to stop sign. No high fives for anyone. ‘

Avery Kratz, 7 years old, puffed on her two-wheeler.

Nine days had passed since the epic ride from Tampa away from baseball, 16 hours with just two stops, a family record.

Erik Kratz called it. “It will never be broken.” “Data-reactid =” 19 “>” The Cal Ripken from disks, “Erik Kratz called it.” It will never be broken. “

One more season? MLB veterans may have played final innings amid coronavirus uncertainty 1

New York YankeesKratz said the spring training facility would be limited to those on the 40-man roster as concerns about the coronavirus pandemic grew, his family – wife Sarah, sons Brayden and Ethan, daughter Avery – packing up his gear and had gone north. “data-reactid =” 29 “> A non-lattice catcher for the New York Yankees, said the training facility would be limited to that on the 40-man roster in the spring as concerns about the coronavirus pandemic grew, Kratz had been family packed up – wife Sarah, sons Brayden and Ethan, daughter Avery – and his equipment and headed north.

Almost 40 years old, he’d decided months to play a final season wherever it took him. He had been everywhere, so the stranger – big leagues, small leagues, starter, backup, this city or that – was not unknown at all and therefore did not frighten him.

He played a ball and enjoyed it as he always had. Win a few games. Get a few hits. Call a pitch or two that no one else saw coming. Win a championship. Maybe the game owed him that. Probably not. But it would be nice to think about it.

Then it was almost midnight and a thousand miles away behind him and Sarah had insisted that they stay in the car as much as possible and then it was all very real.

Maybe he no longer plays.

FORT MYERS, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 29: Erik Kratz # 38 of the New York Yankees in action against the Boston Red Sox during a Grapefruit League Spring Training game at JetBlue Park in Fenway South on February 29, 2020 in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves / Getty Images)

Veteran catcher Erik Kratz was training with the New York Yankees in the spring, looking for an opportunity to play another season in the major leagues. (Photo by Michael Reaves / Getty Images)

A man in Wrentham, Massachusetts tied a guitar to his shoulder. At half-time he strummed ‘Life by the Drop’, a song by Stevie Ray Vaughan from the album ‘The Sky is Crying’. The subtlety, he said, admitting it was a challenge for him was not to play the song and the atmosphere, but to ‘make it musical’, to make it what it wants to be. There is a line, the width of a high E string, between playing along and avoiding.

Chris Iannetta had been in a dugout in West Palm Beach. He had sensed that spring training wouldn’t last much longer. Non-essential personnel had already been removed from their clubhouse. After that the news had not got better. People were sick. Some died. “Data-reactid =” 55 “> Two and a half weeks had passed since Chris Iannetta dug out at West Palm Beach, feeling that spring training wouldn’t take much longer. fetched their club house The news hadn’t got better after that People were sick Some died.

Miami Marlins. The next day the bus delivered them to West Palm Beach to play Washington Nationals. Iannetta, who was due to turn 37 in April and was more seasoned for 14 seasons, was glad she was traveling. “Data-reactid =” 56 “> About half of the Yankees squad had driven to Jupiter four hours the day before They played the Miami Marlins The next day the bus had brought them to West Palm Beach to play the Washington Nationals Iannetta, who turned 37 in April and was a big-leaguer for fourteen seasons, was happy to be on a trip.

Colorado Rockies. For a chance to leave the game in a different way, in a different way, he had agreed to a minor league deal with the Yankees, showed up in Tampa and was assigned a locker just steps from Erik Kratz. The plan was to play well and earn a job and win a championship. “Data-reactid =” 57 “> He had last played a real baseball game on August 10. Five days later, he was released by the Colorado Rockies, a chance to leave the game in some other way than also, he had agreed to a minor league deal with the Yankees, showed up in Tampa and was assigned a locker a few yards from Erik Kratz’s plan to play well and earn a job and win a championship.

Then the world changed. That afternoon he had had a club in his hand, nodded to the field and asked for a favor.

“Mendy,” he told bank coach Carlos Mendoza, “get me at least one.”

Maybe he no longer plays.

Ball players like to say that ball players don’t retire, that “retirement” is too formal a word for what is actually a pair of bloated T-shirts, a broken glove, and a stick of deodorant at the bottom of a cardboard box. The game goes out without them, an ebb and flow that slips away with their youth and a shower shoe.

Usually the best they can hope for is a final season boasting a long goodbye, in which the fading of 10 or 15 or 20 seasons, the love of your life, promises to stand still for a moment or two.

Erik Kratz of Lansdale, of Eastern Mennonite University, from the 29th round of the 2002 concept, from a career that told him to go home so often that it was hardly worth counting, from nearly 1,400 professional games anyway, was ready for his goodbyes.

And Chris Iannetta of Providence, Rhode Island, of the University of North Carolina, of the fourth round of the 2004 draft, of over 9,000 innings in the big league, had just one more point to make, if only for himself .

DENVER, CO - July 13: Chris Iannetta # 22 of the Colorado Rockies holds the ball in an attempt to tag the Cincinnati Reds at Coors Field on July 13, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford / Getty Images)

Chris Iannetta, released last season by the Colorado Rockies, hopes the 2020 MLB season will be played in some form, so he has another chance at the majors. (Photo by Dustin Bradford / Getty Images)

When the world stands upright again, the least of the victims is the baseball season or part of it. The fragments of the careers of players who were lost during that time – the home runs they may have achieved, the wins they may have counted, the money they may have earned – will no longer be relevant. The games will return, the players with them and, like most, and with some awareness, they will continue to be grateful for what they have. For what they could save. Maybe they waited a few months. Maybe they waited a year.

For some, including two war catchers from the same row of lockers in Tampa, the past few weeks and months could spell the end of a career that had long since surrendered itself to the greater good of baseball. That’s what catchers do, or certainly the veterans among them.

For years, the end of each season in Kratz had evoked the same misty reality.

“This,” he thought, “could be the last time I see a big league field.”

So while it is strange in the spring rather than the fall, the area is not unknown. What is so different this time is the climate it arrived in and how small the baseball feels in comparison. It also reminded him how much he loved it. Every dusty, cruel, bloody, glorious inch of it.

“I gave everything I could,” he said. “If we don’t play the season at the end of the day and I don’t get back in the right order, that would be a weird feeling. It will be a lot of days and I have to deal with that.”

In the fifth inning at West Palm Beach, against Sean Doolittle, Chris Iannetta doubled to right-midfield. He left for a pinch runner. In a pointless game that was on the verge of quarantine boards, Iannetta cut the field to the dugout. The next few weeks would bring him uncertainty. Also admiration for the heroes in the paper masks, for the most selfless among us. He had flown home on Sunday evening, first thinking about his two young daughters, then grabbing his guitar and trying not to search for its meaning.

“After I touched second base, everything else was out of my control,” he said. “It’s not exactly the closure you want. I would still like the season to resume. I still want to play a season for the Yankees and win a World Series.”

Until then, until everyone can know, the road will only end. There remains only between the stop signs.

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