Angels mentally prepare for life on the road amid COVID-19 pandemic
The Angels completed the first phase of baseball’s ambitious plan to restart the season amid a global pandemic, Sunday’s final intrasquad game marking the end of a 17-day stretch in which they were able to confine their training-camp activities to Angel Stadium and Blair Field in Long Beach.
Now, they’ll venture into less-controlled environments — bus rides for exhibition games at San Diego on Monday night and Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night and a Thursday flight to Oakland for Friday night’s opening of an abbreviated 60-game regular season. In August, they’ll travel to coronavirus hotspots in Texas.
“You hear about the ‘bubble’ in the NBA — every major league baseball team is basically in its own bubble,” Angels pitcher Andrew Heaney said on a videoconference call Sunday. “All the things you do to be smart [in the stadium], the hand-washing, mask-wearing, wiping down, are even more important once we start traveling and getting outside our bubble here.
“Everyone has a routine, but once you start traveling, things start to change. I think as a team, it seems like we’re pretty prepared for it. We’ve had a lot of talks about what to do, what not to do, how to handle yourself. So I feel pretty good about it, I really do.”
Angels pitcher Julio Teheran was forced to miss the start of the team’s training camp after he and members of his family contracted the coronavirus.
Heaney said that outside of the Fourth of July weekend, when sample collectors did not show up to Angel Stadium or Blair Field to test players for the coronavirus, there have been no “hiccups” in the testing process.
“I know how serious our staff, our coaches, our players are taking it — we’re following all the protocols and procedures,” said Heaney, who is scheduled to start the season opener in Oakland. “I genuinely feel safe, and I feel like everybody has bought in to what needs to be done to keep everybody else safe.
“I think once we start traveling, that presents maybe some different issues, things that may need to be worked through. But I feel like everything has gone pretty well so far.”
Angels manager Joe Maddon has constantly stressed the need for his players to be comfortable with the feeling of being uncomfortable, to expect the unexpected, and that will start Monday night in Petco Park, where the Angels will not have use of the visiting clubhouse for their game against the Padres.
Expected to be shunned by fellow players and taunted by fans in visiting parks this season, the Houston Astros will be shielded by health and safety precautions.
Later this week, the Angels will board an airplane and check into a hotel in another city for the first time this season as a team. They’re scheduled for a six-game trip to Seattle and Texas in early August and a nine-game trip to San Francisco, Oakland and Houston in late August.
The more the Angels travel, the more people they come in contact with in other cities and states, the greater the chance of contracting the coronavirus. But Maddon said he doesn’t feel any more trepidation going on the road than he feels at home.
“For me, I am anticipating a good result based on preparation in advance,” Maddon said. “As of right now, if you’re asking me, I feel a high level of confidence in the methods in place. And society in general.
“I mean, it’s been plainly described as social distance, no large groups. So, if we continue along that method, I feel very confident. If we breach that, then you lose your confidence. So, I think we’ll maintain those protocols.”
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