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Reflections as Cubs spring workouts begin

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Baseball starts its annual spring ritual.

Al Yellon

Cubs pitchers and catchers will have their first workout Wednesday.

If baseball and life were back to normal, I’d be heading over to the back fields at the Sloan Park complex in Mesa to watch the workouts, shoot a few short videos and then write something up so I could share all of that with you.

That won’t be the case this year as the workouts are closed to the public. It’s disappointing but understandable; there’s no way to social-distance on the back fields, as you know if you’ve been there.

So I’ll follow along vicariously along with the rest of you, as the Cubs winnow down the 65 players in camp to the 26 who will take the field April 1 in an empty Wrigley Field. I don’t have any inside info but I am convinced that no fans will be in Wrigley until at least May.

Jed Hoyer told reporters Tuesday that what you see is what you get, in other words the Opening Day roster will come from those 65 players and there won’t be any major signings or trades before then. There will likely be some small moves. One was made earlier today, the signing of reliever Brandon Workman. Perhaps the Cubs can also add an infielder who can play some shortstop to back up Javier Baez, because if we assume Nico Hoerner will start 2021 in Triple-A, there really isn’t a true backup shortstop on the 40-man roster.

The Cubs will put a small number of tickets on sale later Wednesday morning for the 14 home games on the revised spring training schedule. The sale is for Sloan Park season ticket holders. At this time I’m convinced that the COVID-19 protocols announced by the Cubs last week are sufficient, so I’m going to go to these games. If at any time it feels unsafe, I’ll stop. But I miss baseball; apart from sitting on a Wrigley rooftop for Game 1 of the Wild Card series against the Marlins in September (which only sort of counts), I haven’t seen a baseball game in person in nearly a year, since this wacky game March 11, 2020, just days before everything shut down.

That last recap is a time capsule. I made a brief mention of “the spread of COVID-19 and its effects on the sports world” but otherwise it was a normal game recap, noting the game time and scheduled starting pitchers for the next day’s game, which didn’t happen.

Baseball has changed a lot since then. The world has, too, and your life likely is quite different than it was March 11, 2020.

Major League Baseball put on a 60-game season in 2020 with COVID-19 cases and postponements throughout and it might have put a nice little bow on the whole thing if not for Justin Turner’s behavior during the DodgersWorld Series celebration, something that basically went unpunished.

Hopefully, MLB and the Cubs have learned a lot from what went on in 2020 and can return to a normal season in 2021. While vaccinations continue and perhaps, perhaps by the end of this year we can return to some semblance of pre-COVID normal life, there are still risks involved in playing or watching baseball at this time.

But it’s baseball. When things begin anew. When thoughts of warm summer afternoons and evenings hearing the crack of the bat might make you forget the cold and snow you’re likely experiencing right now.

The Cubs begin practicing today, and there will be games to watch in 12 days. Play ball, do it safely, and hopefully we can enjoy the sport we all love as winter turns to spring.