Around the country this week MLB teams will begin their three-week training camp -- "Summer Camp," as MLB calls it -- in preparation for the 60-game 2020 season. The 30 teams are training in their major league ballparks in their home cities.
Players did what they could to stay in shape during the three-month shutdown and some had access to better facilities than others. Take a group of All-Stars in Florida, for example. The Athletic's Brittany Ghiroli has a fun story of a group of players who trained together in secret at an independent Palm Beach facility and played sandlot games at a local high school.
Among the two dozen or so players to participate in the makeshift training camp were Paul Goldschmidt, Corey Kluber, Max Scherzer, Giancarlo Stanton, and Justin Verlander. Those five combine for seven Cy Young awards, two MVPs, and 28 All-Star Game selections. The group grew as the word spread to players who live nearby.
The training camp took place at Cressey Sports Performance. The facility's owner, Eric Cressey, was hired by the New York Yankees to oversee their training staff this offseason, following their record-setting injury season in 2019. The group adhered to social distancing and other health and safety protocols. Here's more from Ghiroli:
There were no known cases of the virus among players at Cressey's gyms.
"The health and safety part was hard. We had to have really small groups, use all 10,000 square feet of the facility," Cressey said. "But the security aspect of it was probably even more challenging, to be discreet and give these guys an element of privacy. Guys were saying it was like 'Fight Club' or Prohibition baseball."
"If people knew what we were doing, we would have had 10,000 people at Palm Beach Gardens High School to watch us."
Cressey teased the group's workouts and simulated games on social media:
Cressey joked the All-Stars are putting him out business because they go through so many baseballs -- "Every foul ball, it stings a little bit," he said -- but his goal was to provide a safe place for big leaguers to work out and stay in shape during the shutdown. Stanton (calf strain) and Verlander (groin surgery) were recovering from injuries as well. This gave them a place to rehab.
Now that the shutdown is over, the "Prohibition Baseball" group has split up and rejoined their respective teams. Inevitably, some players will be ahead of others as training camp begins simply because staying in shape and game ready at home isn't easy for a pro ballplayer. The group that trained at Cressey's facility will surely have a leg up on the competition when the season begins.
"The cool thing about baseball (is) you're always trying to face the best, one on one," Scherzer told Ghiroli. "I had to keep my feel for my pitches, to keep them all separate, now I can get into midseason form as quickly as possible in camp."