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Exactly one week before the 2020 baseball season was to begin, the Twins’ top executives on Thursday reluctantly considered the possibility that Opening Day is actually one year away.

“The reality of it is, we don’t know,” Twins President Dave St. Peter said of a season disrupted for weeks, months or perhaps even longer by the spreading coronavirus pandemic. “We’re hopeful that at the right time, sports will return.

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“Baseball will return. Our job is to be ready for that, assuming it happens. But do we know that’s going to happen [in 2020]? No, we don’t.”

St. Peter and President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey are trying to keep the organization functioning amid the uncertainty that has enveloped daily life around the world, keeping in touch with rehabbing players and out-of-work concession attendants and amateur scouts with nothing to scout.

They are working out ticket-refund plans, finishing Target Field upgrades, and setting up all-staff conference calls.

“You hold out hope that baseball will play a huge role in helping us heal, and that’s what I’m looking forward to, and that’s what’s driving us every day.”
Twins president Dave St. Peter

No Twins employee to their knowledge — player, staff, front office or ballpark operations — has been tested for the coronavirus, St. Peter and Falvey said. But they are preparing in case someone becomes symptomatic.

“Just the realities of the numbers and the math around this would indicate that we’ll likely deal with something along the way, whether it’s a potential need for a test, or one that actually transpires and we find out something specific,” Falvey said. “But as of today, we don’t have anything on that.”

Nor do they have a schedule, a way to keep players in game shape, or any way of knowing when those important items will change. Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is negotiating with the Players Association on behalf of all 30 teams in an effort to settle a variety of issues leaguewide, starting with stipends and per diems before the season commences, salaries and service time once it does.

Strict guidelines

MLB announced Thursday that all minor leaguers will be paid their $400-per-week spring-training per diem through April 8, which would have been opening day for the minor leagues, and that further support beyond that date is in the works.

On the team level, the Twins are staying in touch with their players on a regular basis.

About 20 minor leaguers, most of them from other countries, remain housed at a dorm in Fort Myers, Fla., and a handful of major league players with homes in the area, notably the rehabbing Byron Buxton, also stop by the spring complex to use the weight room or batting cages.

“One-to-one contact only, no utilizing multiple coaches across multiple players,” Falvey said. “The focus has been giving them an opportunity and a resource to be able to work out if necessary, but at different times — after which, equipment is cleaned — to try and maintain as much as we can.

“With players [who went] home, in the early going our sense is that it’s becoming more challenging by the day to maintain a certain level of activity, mostly because facilities are shut down.”

Keeping busy

Before leaving Florida last weekend, pitchers were each given a recommended arm-strength plan by pitching coach Wes Johnson, and the team’s trainers check in with every player on the roster each day.

“But the further and further we get into this, there’s no sugarcoating it,” Falvey said. “We can’t keep up the level of activity we had when we left Fort Myers.”

While they wait, the Twins are moving ahead with other projects. St. Peter is overseeing Target Field’s upkeep — the field is in terrific shape, he said, and alterations in the building include adding a workroom to the clubhouse, canopies in the bullpens, upgrades to private suites, and a new ballpark-wide Wi-Fi system.

And the ticket department is preparing policies — refunds, credits, tickets to potential makeup games — to handle whatever shape the season takes.

Though until there is more clarity about whether the season will start in May, July or next April, “we’re asking our fans to be patient with us,” St. Peter said. “We intend to be very transparent.”

The team has announced a $1 million program to compensate gameday workers idled by the postponements, and a $30,000 donation to The Sheridan Story, which is providing meals for kids impacted by school cancellations.

No front-office layoffs are contemplated right now, St. Peter said.

Looking ahead

On the baseball side, Falvey said the Twins are doing what they can to prepare for the annual amateur draft, scheduled for June 10-12, though its status is now as uncertain as the regular season.

The scouting staff will soon hold conference calls and “we are going through the players that we have on our lists, with the information we have today, so we can be better prepared in the event that comes quickly for us,” Falvey said.

“It’s a way to keep our amateur scouts engaged, a way for us to really dig deep on the information we have.”

Mostly, the team is trying to cope and hope, just like everyone else.

“But there’s a greater responsibility around ensuring that we’re good stewards for the Twins through this crisis, understanding the fan base that we enjoy, the emotional connection to our brand,” St. Peter said.

“You hold out hope that baseball will play a huge role in helping us heal, and that’s what I’m looking forward to, and that’s what’s driving us every day.”