Since Dodgers pitcher Caleb Ferguson made his MLB debut on June 6, he hasn’t had more than one day away from baseball and all the driving, flying and practice it brings.
MLB players spend at least seven months of the year — and that’s counting only the regular season — arriving at games early and leaving late. For an afternoon game, they usually arrive at least four hours ahead of the first pitch for batting practice, fielding drills or tossing sessions. And after they’ve won or lost, which usually takes about three hours to determine, they have to shower, change clothes and fight the same stubborn stadium traffic as any fan. Some must also stay for media interviews.
Even when they do get days off, sometimes they’re spent traveling to the next series, which can be in a new time zone, which can mean jet lag and additional fatigue aside from the everyday weariness brought on from playing day after day.
But by the time you read this, Ferguson will already have caught a red-eye flight to Ohio after the Dodgers’ 5-3 win over the Angels on Sunday. His mother will have already picked him up at the airport just past 5 a.m. He’ll already have eaten at his Monday night cookout, where he’ll be reunited with his family for the first time since before spring training.
“I don’t even think it’s so much [about] time away,” Ferguson explained, “as it is being able to see all your family again.”
Perspectives on how to approach the All-Star break vary, with some taking Ferguson’s stance of focusing on family. Others view it as an opportunity to do some vacationing. And others, well, they don’t view it as much at all. Just a few days to work out without having to play in an actual game.
Ferguson’s approach is influenced by his youth. At 22, he’s the youngest player on the roster. He lives with his parents, whom he rarely sees during the season. To him, the All-Star break means visiting them and taking time away from baseball. He plans on taking a day or two to completely separate himself, but he also plans on meeting with an old high school friend to throw on Wednesday and intends to get in a couple of workouts. Still, when he’s not accustomed to days off, the prospect of getting even two in a row is exciting.
“Those two days,” he said, “will do wonders.”
The process is a little different for Angels reliever Justin Anderson, but it shares one major similarity: a complete escape from baseball.
Anderson won’t be watching the All-Star game or the home run derby. He’ll spend a couple of days at Universal Studios instead, followed by rest, relaxation and some workouts to stay in shape.
“[I just want] to get away from the game for a minute,” he said. “It’s a long season. It’s 162 games. You just want to take a break from baseball.”
Like Ferguson, this is Anderson’s first All-Star break in the major leagues. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has experienced 10 All-Star breaks during his major league career, but this is the first time in seven years that he can embrace the time off. Usually he’s preparing to pitch — or at least attend — the game itself. With a 3-4 record and a 2.74 ERA, he wasn’t selected this season.
“It’s disappointing not to make the All-Star team,” he said, “but it’ll be good to spend some time with my family, for sure.”
As for what he’ll be doing, he said he had plans but was purposely vague, noting that he’s going to “hang” and “do some stuff.”
Having four days off isn’t as unusual for Kershaw as it is for some others because as a starting pitcher, he throws only about once a week. It does mean he doesn’t have to drive to the stadium every day, though. Although he was adamant that while he welcomes spending time with his family — he has two children, ages 3 and 1 — he also doesn’t want to change his routine too much.
While some of the workouts will be abbreviated, he said, they’ll also get done.
“I’m definitely gonna play catch, work out a little bit and make sure you’re not just four days of cold turkey no baseball,” he said.
Teammate Shohei Ohtani, meanwhile, said he’s also going to use the break to relax — but also to prepare.
“Ideally, of course, I would’ve loved to play in the All-Star game,” he said through an interpreter. “But I couldn’t this year, so I’m just going to focus on the second half of the season.”
While the break brings a welcome reprieve from the daily grind of a long season for most players, it’s also important to remember that in the midst of a 162-game regular season, which is preceded by spring training and possibly followed by the playoffs, it can be easy to lose track of time. Just ask Dodgers outfielder Andrew Toles.
“Oh, dang,” he said when told about the impending All-Star break before Saturday’s game. “I didn’t even know.”
With some time to ponder where he stands heading into his four days off, he echoed Ohtani, Kershaw and Fletcher: He’ll be staying in the area, working out and trying to stay in game shape. Because even though rest is appreciated, it’s also not the goal.
“[I’ll] just [do] everything I can do,” he said, “to stay healthy and be ready for the games coming up.”