There’s a small living room amid the suites the Twins are staying in this week, and this being Minnesota, someone has brought a cornhole set in case a player wants some friendly competition in the hallway. There’s a communal TV, too, usually tuned to baseball or wired to a video game console.
“It’s a pretty comfortable set-up. We get all the things that we’re used to, the food that we’re used to,” Rocco Baldelli said. “Guys are chilling out, relaxing.”
So what does the Twins’ manager have planned for a quarantined off day?
“I’ll probably sit on my bed, or the other furniture in the room at some point,” Baldelli said. “Probably be on the phone for a good bit. I’m really not sure what else.”
Millions of Americans, idled by the pandemic and the need to avoid risking infection, can relate to the boredom that major leaguers face this week as they enter MLB-mandated lockdown.
No face-to-face contact is allowed with people outside the quarantine, so it’s up to the roughly 130 members of the Twins’ traveling party — 40 players, about 40 wives and children, and 50 coaches, trainers and other staff members — to occupy themselves without leaving the hotel they’re bunkered down in, or the ballpark they’re playing in.
And as the entire country has learned during this pandemic, that’s not always easy.
“I’m a guy that likes to move around a lot and do a lot of things. I don’t sit still a lot,” pitching coach Wes Johnson said.
He kills time by riding a stationary bike, and “one of those days in Detroit [last month], I think I rode the bike about four times, it felt like. [I’m] so bored.”
But he’s more than happy to keep pedaling if it means the Twins can keep playing.
“If somebody came to any of our players, any of our staff or coaches, and said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to go into a bubble, potentially for five weeks, to play for a World Series,’ who wouldn’t do it?” Johnson said. “If you always keep that in the forefront of your mind, it makes things a little easier. … I keep thinking, this is an opportunity.”
It is, and the trade-off isn’t bad, as the players all acknowledge.
They understand, and their union formally approved, MLB’s desire to avoid, during a postseason tournament that is potentially worth close to $1 billion in television and other revenue, the disruption that a new wave of positive tests would cause.
That’s why the Twins, like all potential playoff teams with home games this weekend, are already in hotel isolation, even during the regular season.
And as hardships go, being confined to a luxury hotel at someone else’s expense, having meals and transportation provided, isn’t exactly prison time.
“We’ll get through it. It’s temporary,” Twins reliever Taylor Rogers said. “This will be something we can tell the grandkids about, that they won’t believe, probably.”
There are plenty of kids around, since players were allowed to bring their families with them. Nearly a dozen Twins players had their children living with them this season, “and you see them down in the breakfast room now,” Rogers said. “I don’t really have a grasp yet of how many families are here.”
The quarantine is strict, but there’s an element of trust, too, Baldelli said. Anyone who leaves confinement won’t be allowed back without isolating for several days, but “I believe everyone is going to be able to leave the hotel with their mask on, to go for a walk, go for a run, try to get some fresh air.”
Then? Go back inside, where players are trying to create an upbeat atmosphere.
Josh Donaldson had robes made for each player and coach, complete with names, numbers and the Twins’ logo, for lounging around.
“We’ll probably have some tunes blasting somewhere, too,” Baldelli said, “whether [it] be in my room or a common area where we have food and a TV.”
It’s a little disorienting staying in a hotel in Minneapolis, Rogers said, just blocks from their now-off-limits apartments.
“It was definitely interesting taking a bus to the ballpark. I’m not really used to doing that. I didn’t even know where the buses park” at Target Field, he said.
“It’s 2020. We’ve got to be ready for anything that comes our way.”