The Twins employ physicians, trainers, strength coaches, massage therapists, even a dietitian, all to make sure the players have everything they need to be physically ready to play. But for the mental part? Marwin Gonzalez has a support system that he decided he couldn’t be without for the next three months: his wife, Noel, along with their three small children.
“I didn’t want to be apart from them,” Gonzalez said of the couple’s decision to travel to Minnesota all together last week. “When you have a bad game, my personal opinion is, when I get home and see my kids, they change the whole day. They change my day. Sometimes you need to stay a bit away from baseball whenever you’re going through a rough time. That was the main reason I decided to bring my kids.”
It’s an understandable decision, but not an easy one and, on the Twins, far from a unanimous one.
With the coronavirus surging all over the country, with the regular season reduced to nine weeks instead of six months, several players said they grappled with the decision. You know how the negotiations between MLB owners and players involved questions about logistics, travel, finances and especially safety, about avoiding COVID-19 and determining what happens if you can’t?
Yeah, it was like that.
“It was a tough decision, and it’s not one that you’re exactly prepared to make,” said Jake Odorizzi, father of two young sons who remain, with wife Carissa, at their home in Tampa, Fla. “There’s a lot of back and forth.”
Same with Gonzalez, whose daughter Eliana is enrolled in school for the first time this fall, creating another consideration for the parents. Noel at first advocated staying at their Houston home, he said, but was swayed by his commitment to staying safe and his desire to have his kids close by.
“I was doing the best I could to convince her because I didn’t want to be here [alone]. It’s tough to be just living baseball, given everything that we’re living in right now,” Gonzalez said. “To be by myself for these two and hopefully three months — at the end of the day, we decided to come here, the whole family.”
Jorge Polanco and Jose Berrios made similar choices. “They’ve always been with me since Day 1,” Berrios said of wife Jannieliz and their three children, who live in Puerto Rico in the offseason. He chose to bring everyone, “even though it meant they needed to take a private flight. … I’m just happy to have my family here.”
But COVID-19 caused other parents to make different choices, even though it means seeing each other only via Zoom calls for the next couple of months. Luis Arraez’s family stayed in Florida, and Rich Hill’s wife, Caitlin, and son, Brice, remain in Massachusetts.
Byron Buxton left his newborn son, Blaze, behind in Georgia, a decision he said he wrestled with. And Nelson Cruz celebrated his 40th birthday last week with only a cousin, because his wife, Solanyi, and their two children remain in the Dominican Republic.
“It’s a great sacrifice,” Hill said. “Throughout all of our careers, you make sacrifices. Birthdays. Weddings. Funerals. You end up missing those moments with family and friends. It’s very difficult, and I know it’s very difficult for a lot of guys in the room. I hope we get to the point where it’s comfortable enough for them to come out here.”
The virus is the biggest factor in those tough calls, of course, but the length of the season and the late decision to play made it tougher, too. Finding a temporary home for three months isn’t easy, and there’s a lot of possessions to move. Home is just a lot more comfortable.
“We’re not supposed to be going anywhere, not going to the mall or park — is that the life you want [children] to have? Stuffed in an apartment?” Odorizzi said. “Anyone that has kids, especially a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old, they don’t exactly want to sit around and do nothing. We just didn’t think it was fair to them.”
But it means nine weeks will feel more like 90.
“I miss them daily. Every day,” Odorizzi said. “But sometimes you have to make adult decisions and do what’s right for the family, even if it’s the tough thing to do.”