A candid Jason Heyward on MLB hiatus: ‘We just want everyone to be safe first'


Baseball players, like all professional athletes, are extremely routine oriented. They’re accustomed to immersing themselves into their sport from February through September — October, if they’re lucky.

But like everyone else, Major League Baseball is in uncharted waters due to the COVID-19 pandemic. MLB suspended the season through mid-May last week following a new recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control. This follows an initial suspension of play from March 26 to April 9.

Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward spoke candidly on the topic during Friday’s edition of ESPN 1000’s “Waddle and Silvy.” He wasn’t shocked when the season was suspended, and while he’d rather be playing, he knows keeping people safe is the top priority.

“The feeling for me and all the players is just weird,” Heyward said. “This is the kind of stuff you see in movies only, and now it's taking effect into real life because again, we all got family members that are being affected by this with jobs, having to stay home, some people with health issues.

“It’s scary but at the same time, it’s one of those things where you don’t know what’s gonna happen next… [Suspending play] puts you a little bit more at ease when you get to know that ‘Alright, this is shutdown.'

“We’re gonna try and take every precautionary action we can to make sure people are safe.”

Heyward said staying in Arizona is the safest route for Cubs players due to the controlled environments, compared to being in a big city like Chicago. However, MLB teams are barred from holding organized workouts, and while the Cubs’ spring training facility is open, they’re limiting the number of people who use it at one time.

Those circumstances make it tough for players to prepare for the season in a traditional fashion.

“It is tough. We were getting ready, so now it’s put that on hold,” Heyward said “You’re going to get some more rest, of course, but also, you’re gonna be kind of stir crazy because you’re supposed to be playing right now, you’re supposed to be getting ready for a season.

“It’s just not the norm; you don’t prepare for stuff like this.”

Whenever MLB returns, a second spring training will be needed to get players back into game shape. At this point, the soonest the season will start is late-May or early June, but everything is contingent on how the coronavirus evolves and making sure it’s safe to play.

“We just want everyone to be safe first; we want the country to be safe first; we want the world to be safe first,” Heyward said. “And whenever that is, I think they're going to figure out how to move best. Again, everybody wants to go play, everyone wants to have a season, everybody wants to have an opportunity to win a World Series, be back around fans, the adrenaline — all the things we love about the game.

“We don’t want that with questions out there. Are we endangering ourselves, endangering our families and other people?"

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