Just like his strong arm and limber legs, Joe Girardi made good use of his mouth over 15 seasons as a big league catcher. So much so that slugger Chili Davis once told him to shut it.
“He was like, ‘You’re bothering me, I’m trying to hit,’” recalled Girardi, now manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. “I said, ‘Well, I’m trying to bother you, Chili.’”
Girardi doesn’t think that kind of chatter will happen as much this season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
There’s some concern that home plate could become a hot spot for transmission as baseball attempts to play a shortened 60-game season starting Thursday.
Social distancing elsewhere around the diamond is fairly easy. But with the batter, catcher and umpire gathered within a few feet of each other around home plate, it might not be possible for all parties to follow government guidance to avoid 10 to 15 minutes of close exposure to others.
“It’s been a little weird. Just from being back there for so long, you get used to having people around,” Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Carson Kelly said. “But now you get some second thoughts. ‘Oh wait, should I be this close to this guy?’ … We’ve got a job to do but at the same time we need to be safe.”
Like with so much in everyday life during the pandemic, the interactions at home — whether cordial exchanges or distracting chatter — will feel far from normal for the trio around that 17-inch wide plate.
“This is something everybody’s talking about, everybody’s trying to figure out,” Texas Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos said. “But in the end hopefully we can do our part and be safe at the plate, because of having those three guys right there so close.”