Best Social Distancing Plays – Week 1

We like it when players look after each other and the game we love.

It is a whole new world for all of us in the baseball-loving community. The pandemic-stricken 60-game season went through unprecedented highs and lows over the past week. With strict guidelines and regulations to follow thanks (no thanks!) to COVID-19, baseball returned with a mixed bag of the good, the bad, and the (unfortunately) ugly when it came to adhering to the new reality.

We want to celebrate those that did it best, followed the rules, and stayed socially distant during the opening week of games.


Clap Your Sanitized Hands for Anthony Rizzo


Much-loved Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo added a nice touch to Opening Day by generously offering hand sanitizer to the Milwaukee Brewers‘ first base runner of the season, Orlando Arcia. It was graciously accepted and the two shared a nice moment that gave everyone a little smile and a glimmer of hope that this season will actually be ok.




Phillies Master the Clean Handshake 


We were all worried that the “No High Fives” rule would kill our love for what happens in the dugouts. The way teams have taken celebrations and congratulatory gestures to a whole new level over the past few years have not only added some welcome light-hearted fun, but it has also seen some teams show an unbelievable level of creativity that has had a positive impact on team morale and culture. Fear not, it looks like the challenge has been thrown down, and teams are more than up for the challenge. First up, the Philadelphia Phillies and new recruit Didi Gregorius.




Bill Murray’s 7th-Inning Stretch


It wouldn’t be baseball in 2020 without a cameo appearance from Cubs superfan Bill Murray. Luckily, we did not have to wait long. As soon as I saw Buster tweet this, I flicked straight over to the game.



Key traditions such as the 7th-inning stretch have offered clubs both a challenge and opportunity to reinvent the way Take Me Out To The Ball Game can keep fans engaged and feel connected to the game. Hats off to the Chicago Cubs, they nailed it straight out of the gate.




Clean Cut Craig Kimbrel


It was the question that dominated social media when COVID-19 hit, “Should I shave my beard to keep from getting the coronavirus?” Stay-at-home orders brought about the inevitable wave of “iso-beards” and hashtags such as #letsgrowtogether, even Jim Carrey got in on the act. Medical professionals advised “theoretically” beards could be an issue, however, “if someone sneezes in your face, it could settle anywhere on it — your nose, your beard, any part,” said Carrie L. Kovarik, associate professor of dermatology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s not the beard that is the problem,” she added, “it’s being in close contact with others or having people sneezing on you or coughing on you.”

Craig Kimbrel, notoriously known for his epically long flame-colored beard, was taking no such risks. Also…Who is that guy, he looks weird?!



Unfortunately for Kimbrel, the beard may have been the source of all his powers as he was pulled after nearly blowing a save. Coming into the game with the Cubs leading 8-5 in the bottom of the 9th inning, the former Red Sox closer walked 4 straight batters and only made 1 out whilst giving up 2 runs. Luckily, the Cubs held on thanks to Jeremy Jeffress.


Benches Clear – the Socially Distanced Version


It was always going to happen, we all knew that. And thanks to the now-famous Joe Kelly incident, the revenge against the Houston Astros for their part in the sign-stealing scandal has well and truly begun. The Dodgers reliever, who wasn’t even on the team in 2017, decided to throw a 96 mph fastball at Alex Bregman’s head before sending Correa to the dirt with another erratic delivery. After Kelly then struck out Correa, (not very pleasant) words were exchanged and both benches cleared. Head to Rotowear to buy the t-shirt if you want to know more!



Whereas some made light of the “standoff” others wondered what will be next and whether this kind of behavior will threaten the protocols put in place by Major League Baseball to stop the spread of the coronavirus. All in all, despite violations of proximity between players, it was as socially distanced as a melee could be.





Angel Hernandez and the Strike Zone


The oft-maligned umpire has built a reputation on deciding where the strike zone exists at any moment in time. The social distancing rules are simple—do not shake hands, or exchange physical greetings, and wherever possible, stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Well, Hernandez decided to apply that to the ball and the strike zone early on in the season opener between the Nationals and Yankees.

Bottom of the 1st, Howie Kendrick at the plate in a 1-2 count facing the new Yankees ace Gerrit Cole. The look on Howie’s face says it all.




Two Man Outfield


The Tampa Bay Rays caused a bit of a stir earlier in the week with their deployment of a 4 man outfield to Cavan Biggio early in the game against the Toronto Blue Jays. So, a socially distanced infield!



Well, we had the opposite in Oakland. The Athletics and Los Angeles Angels contested the first extra-innings game of the season with the new rule of a runner at second base automatically applied at the start of the inning for each team. The Angels could not capitalize at the top of the 10th but the A’s loaded the bases for Matt Olson, who was then met with an unusual sight.




Yes, that’s right. A 5 man infield and a socially distanced 2 man outfield! The A’s first baseman could not have answered better, sending the first pitch he saw into the stands for a walk-off Grand Slam!




Join me next week for more of the Best Social Distancing Plays of Week 2.


Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@FreshMeatComm on Twitter)

Benjamin Haller

A Yorkshireman living in Australia, loving Major League Baseball from afar. As I wait for my A's to build their new stadium, I spend my time coaching soccer, writing for sportbc.blog, and over-analyzing relief pitcher scoring in fantasy baseball. Follow me @benjaminhaller1 for thousands of retweets

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