After the longest and crudest off-season, the world of baseball had only two weeks until Opening Day. Fans, players and writers were all ready for the first pitch, the first home run and the first strikeout. But none of that would come on time. As COVID-19 began to spread, Opening Day pulled further and further away.

The news broke on March 12, 2020 as teams continued to play in Spring Training. The moment that players walked off the field for the final time, a cloud of uncertainty washed over the entire sport.

A soft blow to the escape from reality that most baseball fans crave. The world crumbles around us all but the sound of a heater echoing off of a bat takes it away for a mere second. And now, not even baseball can take away the woes around us.

This includes myself, tearfully realizing how the sport that helped me through so many things has been taken away when it should be flourishing and ending its 2020 Spring Training. Selfishly, I felt anger and now I only feel sadness. This was the year my site and my writing would be doing big things for the game from Independent, MiLB and MLB. Now nothing is guaranteed for quite some time and I am left to wonder what comes next.

But this isn’t just about me or Dugout Dish. This is about everyone around me.

The game isn’t just a game to some. You can see many tweets from non-sports loving people saying that sports lovers should get over it and learn how to like other things. There is a difference between liking something and having a job that revolves around the game. There are people who will now have to find ways to earn money because without baseball, without sports, where will the income come from? There are people that I love and care about that are now lost and out of jobs. And it hurts because I can’t fix it or control it.

This isn’t normal and this will not be our new normal. It cannot be.

Over the weekend, to try and make things seem normal or at least cling to some form of normalcy while we all can, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer made a decision and called upon some of his friends and teammates. A whiffle ball game live-streamed to give fans and players a break from constant COVID-19 updates and breaking news of another heart-wrenching situation.

As well as playing the game, Bauer has started a GoFundMe account for MLB stadium employees who are displaced while the game is on hiatus due to COVID-19. His goal is $1,000,000.

Stadium employees are not the only ones affected. Minor League Baseball players are being shut down in the dark. There are many MiLB players who made it to Spring Training last Wednesday and Thursday, just to be sent back home on Friday. Some of these players won’t be getting paid. Tragically, some of these guys haven’t been paid since last season.

Most try to pick up odd jobs, including Door Dash, giving lessons to younger players, and working for companies like Uber just to get by on tips. To help, you can visit More Than Baseball. Even if you can donate $10, it helps.

So what happens now? As we all sit and let our minds wander, does this change the future of our most beloved sport? Will this take away someone’s opportunity to fall in love with the game? Will this be the way veteran players end their careers?

There are so many unanswered questions. So many plausible answers that only time can give. As fans, as writers, and as baseball players, we can only move forward and hope the game we love returns better than ever. May we cherish each play, each moment and never take another walk-off home run or no-no for granted.

Follow along for all things baseball and horrible memes @chelseabrooke | @dugoutdish

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