PAWTUCKET The coronavirus pandemic hit home early this week for the Pawtucket Red Sox.
Team radio play-by-play voice Josh Maurer tweeted suspicions he might be suffering from the illness currently sweeping across the United States and the globe. Maurer made an impassioned plea for expanded testing and increased cooperation among both government and health care administrators.
It was a chilling reminder for PawSox executive vice president/real estate development and business affairs czar Dan Rea about the current state of the sports world. Rea is conducting staff meetings from home instead of a conference room, and the franchises pending move to Worcester suddenly seems like an insignificant detail.
Were largely in sort of a holding pattern right now and trying to see where things go from here, Rea said. Certainly hoping to have something of a baseball season. Were working closely with our colleagues at Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, the International League and, of course, the Boston Red Sox.
Certainly a strange new normal to say the least.
Thursday was scheduled to be Opening Day across MLB, and the PawSox were set to welcome Syracuse on April 9 to begin their final season in their longtime home. The big leagues have pushed their start date to at least May 10, and all affiliates will be forced to follow their lead. Rea was on a conference call with IL president Randy Mobley earlier this week for an open discussion about how to proceed.
I would say we really havent ruled anything out as far as when were back playing baseball and then how the season progresses from that point, Rea said. Do we play games beyond the traditional end date of the regular season at our level? Does the season continue into September or beyond?
Rea has been away from his McCoy Stadium office for at least the last couple weeks and has no immediate plans to return. Fenway Park underwent a lockdown and three-day deep clean earlier this month, something that could also take place in Pawtucket. Rea has been in touch with the clubs outside contractor in charge of stadium cleaning and is already putting them to work.
Were going to have ample stations and dispensers for hand sanitizer all over the ballpark, Rea said. Its really an enhanced focus on cleanliness.
An extended season could allow the PawSox to catch up on some of their planned promotions. The usual fireworks nights and giveaways are all on hold as social distancing and necessary restrictions become the norm.
Maybe its the optimist in me, but I still think theres a chance to have what will be a substantive season, Rea said. We still need to answer the ultimate question what is the season going to look like?
The Red Sox have closed their JetBlue Park complex in Florida after an unidentified minor leaguer tested positive for the coronavirus. Boston would have to convene some sort of second spring training before beginning the season, and players would need to be assigned to affiliates. Rea has also been in frequent contact with Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, general manager Brian OHalloran, vice president of player development Ben Crockett and director of minor league operations Brian Abraham.
They have such a multi-faceted puzzle to solve, Rea said. Were one piece of that puzzle. Theyve been very open and communicative with us. Theyre trying to think their way through this new normal as well.
The PawSox are also dealing with a pair of state governments as they prepare a move to Polar Park in Worcester for the beginning of the 2021 season. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has allowed construction projects to continue as scheduled, declaring them essential businesses. Worcester city officials have yet to place any of their own restrictions on the ballpark, which saw its first steel beam put into place last week.
Ultimately, it is a public policy question, Rea said. We want to follow those guidelines. If somebody was to come in and say differently, we would certainly listen.