But after the weeklong road trip, players and staff members only have two nights to enjoy the comfort of their own homes. Following Tuesday night’s game at Target Field against the Detroit Tigers, the Twins are set to enter a quarantine bubble at a local hotel in preparation for the American League playoffs, which begin Sept. 29.
While the Twins don’t seem particularly enthused about spending the final week of the regular season at home in quarantine, they understand that this is what they must do. The arrangement was born out of a desire to attempt to minimize potential COVID-19 exposures ahead of the postseason.
And so, about 50 staff members and 40 players will enter that environment, as well as some players’ families.
“I would be lying if I said that guys were A-OK with a big smile with that, but everyone knows that we have to do what we have to do,” manager Rocco Baldelli said.
The Twins, who clinched a postseason berth on Saturday, will either stay at that hotel through the Wild Card Series — if they wind up hosting a series in Minneapolis — or until the time they leave town for their first-round series. If they advance past the first round, they would head into a quarantine bubble in Southern California, where Major League Baseball will be sending the final four American League teams. National League teams will head to Texas.
“It’s honestly sitting in a hotel for a week at a time with not much to do,” reliever Tyler Duffey said. “I don’t know what the right word would be other than it sucks, to be frank. But … everybody’s got to do it.”
Over the past couple of months, other leagues have had success with bubble situations, most notably the NBA and NHL, leading MLB toward that route to try to ensure that the playoffs go off without a hitch.
MLB had two COVID-19 outbreaks, with the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, earlier in the season but after cracking down and enforcing additional protocols, many of the recent cases have been one-off occurrences, caught early with COVID-positive individuals isolated immediately to stop the spread of the virus.
At one point early in the season, when the Marlins and Cardinals had been hit hard by outbreaks, it seemed as if the playoffs might not even come. But now that MLB has made it through the bulk of its 60-game season and is entering its final week, it is doing everything it can to ensure the World Series trophy is awarded in late October.
And in 2020, that takes sacrifice.
“You can’t go for breakfast, you can’t go get coffee, you can’t do anything,” Duffey said. “You’re going to stay in the room, you’re going to eat breakfast in a room that’s designated for us to eat in, and that’s about it. Guys are going to have their whole families in there, things like that. It’s going to be different.”
Starter Rich Hill is particularly excited to share this experience with his wife, Caitlin, and son, Brice, who will be joining him. But Hill is upset that staff members will not be able to have their families join them at the hotel as players will, pointing out that staff members have put in the same time and effort and many have been dedicated Twins employees for decades.
“From the training staff to the equipment managers to PR, through bat boys, everybody that should be, I believe, given this opportunity, it’s being missed. We’re swinging and missing big time here, and I do not want to see these moments go by because that’s really what it is all about,” Hill said. “…I know how important it is to have family around, and I do not agree with the option of not allowing the staff to have their family be part of this moment.”
That would include president of baseball operations Derek Falvey, who will enter the bubble without his family. Falvey said the agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association was made to keep a bubble as tight as possible, but it was his understanding that if the Twins moved on to the American League Division Series and beyond, “there will be some conversation to be had at the league level” about the matter.
But for now, before they get to that point, the Twins must navigate the unique set of circumstances in front of them the best they can, like it or not.
“We’re going to have to make sacrifices,” Baldelli said. “This is not the most difficult sacrifice that we’ve had to make to this point, so we’re just going to do it.”
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