By Michael Bennett
Tonight’s Nats-Yanks game is the opener for Major League Baseball, but it’s also opening night for major American team sports, which have been shut down the last four months due to a pandemic.
The NBA, the NHL and the NFL are all coming soon. But leading off, appropriately, is baseball.
Tonight’s nationally televised game will be viewed around the country as something far more significant than any previous opening night starring the defending champs.
“Absolutely,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said. “It’s an honor to be the first game being played this season.”
After months of very public haggling over finances and health protocols, MLB now must prove it can actually commence, compete and ultimately complete a (shortened) season without jeopardizing the safety of thousands of participants.
We won’t know how it all worked out for some time, but Thursday night will be the first widely public display of the sport’s intentions to pull this gargantuan task off.
“I think this whole season is kind of an example of the kind of measures that it takes to resume a lot of things during the pandemic,” Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle said. “I think it will be an important and kind of powerful statement tomorrow when people are watching the game, and there’s guys in the dugouts wearing masks, and people are social distancing and players have fully bought in to all of these protocols. Because we want to play, and we know this is what it’s going to take to have a chance to resume the season safely. If anything, I think the whole season – summer camp and the regular season – is just an example of the kind of lengths you have to go to in order to make it safe for people to work during a pandemic.”