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COVID-19’s Impact on Baseball

Former Chinooks in the MLB Discuss Coronavirus’ Impact on Baseball

By Michael Hogan

With Major League Baseball’s 162-game regular season on the verge of beginning, former Lakeshore Chinooks pitchers Shaun Anderson and Alex Young were both settling into a nice routine at spring training in Arizona.

But suddenly, amidst coronavirus concerns, the MLB has ground to a halt. First spring training and then the season were placed on hold.

Anderson, who played for the Chinooks in 2014, made his MLB debut on May 15, 2019, with the San Francisco Giants. In his rookie season, Anderson made 28 appearances and started 16 games while striking out 70 batters and winning three games.

After the MLB made its announcement to suspend all baseball activity on March 16, Anderson returned home to Florida.

“I take the offseason really seriously,” Anderson said. “As far as training, bullpens and throwing goes, all of that’s taken care of in the offseason. When I get into spring training, I usually make sure I am ready. You had routines, you had the placement, you knew where you were going to go. And this happened.”

For Anderson, it’s all about routine. He said he’s picked up right where he left off in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“It’s easier to stay in a routine than to start back up again,” Anderson said. “I didn’t want to risk not throwing and having to start back up again. I got in contact with my catcher that I have down here. I continued to work on things and picked up where I left off. I just have to keep going until things resume.”

Alex Young played for the Chinooks in 2013 and made his MLB debut June 27, 2019, with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Young made 17 appearances and won seven games during his rookie season while striking out 71 batters and pitching to a  3.56 earned-run average.

During a bullpen session, Young recalls his pitching coach telling him spring training and the regular season were going to be put on hold.

“I threw like 50 pitches,” Young said. “I didn’t know how real it was at that point. I didn’t know how long the facility would be open, but I was thinking it wouldn’t be open for much longer. So, I went home before I couldn’t anymore.”

Young drove back to his home in Texas where he has been doing workouts in his backyard.

While Young doesn’t have a catcher at home, he has been making do with the resources he has.

“I have a big enough yard to where I can play catch,” Young said. “I basically bought stuff that I needed. I bought a mound so I can throw bullpens. And I have a pitching pocket to throw into. I also have a bounce-back screen so I can do long toss with myself.”

Young continued, “I have also been doing workouts in my house. It’s whatever I have. I bought some stuff early on. I bought a peloton the day I got back here, so I am excited to use that.”

After longtime manager Bruce Bochy retired at the conclusion of the 2019 MLB season, the Giants hired former Philadelphia Phillies’ manager Gabe Kapler to take the reins in the Bay Area.

Anderson spoke highly of Kapler, and said the shutdown has not made the transition from one coaching staff to another challenging.

“Kap has been really approachable,” Anderson said. “He’s really intense, but he cares. He makes his way to talk to you every single day, even if you don’t pass by him. He comes up to you and talks to you. He makes sure everything is going well on your part and his part. He talks about ways he can be better and he tells you how you can be better.”

Anderson continued, “It’s a team effort. Everyone is on board. I’ve been in touch with the pitching coaches and they’re on board with everything. We’ve been keeping in touch. It seems like we have a big family. I think it’s a great transition. He’s approachable, a younger guy and he wants to win.”

In Arizona, Young has some new teammates, including four-time all-star and three-time World Series champion, Madison Bumgarner.

Young got an up-close look at how Bumgarner works during spring training, as they were in the same small group. Bumgarner, according to Young, has been a great addition to the Diamondbacks’ pitching staff, especially for younger pitchers like himself.

“He’s awesome. He’s a really cool guy, he’s funny,” Young said. “He wants to help guys. Every time we’re working, he’s always saying something and helping guys. He watches bullpens. He’s been super helpful so far. He’s a competitor. People have seen it, but I don’t think people know who he really is outside of just seeing him on the mound.”

Over the past several weeks, many ideas on how, when and where the MLB can restart have floated around.

The most popular being the Arizona plan, where all 30 teams would live and play games in Arizona.

Both Anderson and Young said they will be ready to play wherever and whenever. But for now, health and safety remain most important.

“Honestly, I am just ready to play,” Anderson said. “I have been working on a lot of stuff, so I am excited to implement it. I have no idea when it’s going to start, but if they say I am going to Arizona tomorrow and I am going to pitch, I’ll be ready.”

Anderson continued, “You can’t continue to doubt. You have to keep looking forward to a season whether there is one or not. I have been staying in touch with a lot of the guys. The biggest thing is making sure everyone is staying healthy.”

Young said similar.

“I have heard a lot of stuff. Talks from my agent, the Diamondbacks, all of this stuff,” Young said. “People don’t realize how impactful this virus is. Keeping all of the players in one location would be my best bet. Having everyone play in Arizona would be my guess. But, I don’t know what their plan is moving forward. That’s my idea of what should happen.”

Young continued, “If they said everything was fine tomorrow, I still have a job to do. I also don’t want to put my health at risk. It’s the players association’s decision as to what’s best for the players health wise, living conditions and all of that. There’s so much that goes into it.”

Anderson and Young on their time with the Chinooks: 

    Both Anderson and Young spoke highly of their Lakeshore experiences. Anderson played on the 2014 Northwoods League Championship team. Young played on the 2013 team, which finished 44-26.

Anderson: “Man, I loved Lakeshore. That was one of the most fun summers I’ve ever had. I had a great host family. Mr. and Mrs. Lorenz were awesome. They were always there. It seemed like they were family. I still keep in touch with them today. When we went to Milwaukee last year, they came out and watched the game. We went out to breakfast. That relationship I’ve been able to have with them is awesome.”

“When I first went to the University of Florida, I didn’t get a chance to start. I was starting in high school, and I always had that love for starting. When I went to Lakeshore, I started. That kind of gave me the feeling that I could be a starting pitcher. Even though I wasn’t starting in college, I was starting for Lakeshore and I was doing pretty well. I think that summer kind of continued my drive to want to be a starter. If that never happened, maybe I just would’ve went right to the bullpen and stuck to it. Believing in myself that I could start  kind of helped me throughout the minor leagues and potentially got me to the big leagues as a starter.”

“We ended up winning the championship that summer. So, having that  championship mentality with a couple guys I never even met before. We all had one goal, and that was to win and have fun. That’s what we did. It was a really cool experience. Definitely one I will remember forever. 

Young: “Well, it was short. It was only like three weeks, but it was a lot of fun. I loved the coaching staff there and all of the guys I played with. It really felt like a minor league grind. We were playing almost every single day. You’re taking those bus rides. It really felt like the minor leagues. It really prepared me for the mentality.”