Bad News for the Braves
By: Amy Dong
The crack of the bat. The cheers from the stands. These are the sounds that some members of the Atlanta Braves will not be hearing at the start of this upcoming baseball season.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Major League Baseball (MLB) teams have had to overcome hurdle after hurdle, and one more has just been thrown their way. Less than three weeks before the beginning of the delayed MLB season, four players from the Atlanta Braves have tested positive for the coronavirus, including All-Star baseman Freddie Freeman and recently-signed relief pitcher Will Smith.
The start of the baseball season is scheduled for July 23, and the absence of these players will be a hard hit for the Braves. “It will be a while before we can get him back,” said Brian Snitker, the manager for the Braves, about Freeman.
A star of the team, Freeman had 38 home runs and 121 runs batted in last season, catapulting the Braves into their second straight North League East Champions title, and it’s 14th title in total. He took fourth place in the National League Most Valuable Player voting, and won a Rawlings Gold Glove Award, which is given annually to MLB players judged to have exceptional fielding performances.
Freeman’s teammate, Will Smith, has also tested positive for the virus. Recently signed by Atlanta to a $39 million deal in November, Smith was an All-Star with the San Francisco Giants last season. Right-hander Touki Toussaint and infielder Pete Kozma have also disclosed their positive tests. While both Smith and Toussaint show no symptoms, Kozma and Freeman have been reported to have fevers.
Even after the four players return, Snitker believes concerns will prevail. “Guys have gotten it more than once,” Snitker said. “We’re going to have to be careful all year and it’s going to be the new normal for the next three months.”
The Braves aren’t the only team with coronavirus troubles. On Friday, the MLB Players’ Association announced that 31 players and seven staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Outfielder Charlie Blackmon, a four-time All-Star from the Colorado Rockies, also tested positive.
Snitker also reports that 53-year-old first base coach Eric Young Sr. has also opted out of the season due to concerns about coronavirus. Demarlo Hale, a special assistant with the Braves, has been scheduled to fill in for Young.