Grove staying ready and waiting
WHEELING — Michael Grove feels good physically and he’s ready mentally.
But, similar to all professional baseball players, the only game the Wheeling Park and West Virginia product continues to play is the waiting game.
Along with the waiting game also comes a state of limbo, which makes each passing day a bit tougher for Grove, who is a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system, and countless other minor league ballplayers.
“The weirdest part is preparing for something, but you really don’t know what you’re getting ready for,” Grove admitted shortly after completing a light throwing session at Wheeling University this week. “We really don’t know what’s going to happen with the season or even what’s going to happen once we get called back out (to Arizona) to resume spring training.”
In the meantime, however, Grove is doing all he can to prepare as if he’s going to be pitching in real games at some point this summer, or even in the fall.
“I could probably be ready to pitch (a real game) in a week,” Grove admitted. “I’ve been ramping up since the beginning of June.”
Along with his throwing sessions at Wheeling University, Grove has thrown bullpen sessions at Wheeling Park and he’s been traveling back to Morgantown to work out at Mylan Park. There he actually faces live hitters.
“This was my fourth week of throwing to actual hitters,” Grove said. “The organization gives us a structure of workouts and then I kind of make my own from that. Going to Morgantown has been really beneficial because there are pro guys and college guys there.”
Grove was in Arizona and well into spring training when Major League Baseball shutdown camps and sent the players home.
“I think it was March 13 when I came home,” Grove recalled. “We just continue to try to gather as much information as we can from the team and keep working to prepare myself.”
Grove, who was drafted in the second round in 2018, pitched last season for Rancho Cucamonga, which was an A-ball level Dodgers affiliate.
Because basically all of the revenue stream of minor league baseball organizations is based on ticket sales, Grove doesn’t foresee anything close to a normal season as long as large gatherings aren’t permitted because of the fear of spread of coronavirus.
“There is talk that the rosters could be expanded to 50 or 60 guys since younger guys need work and development, and for minor leaguers, there could be an extended fall league for more work or an extended instructional league. I don’t think there will be a traditional minor league, affiliated season, though.”
That is where the state of limbo arrives. Information is scarce and there is simply nothing definitive at this point.
“I am just taking it one day at a time and trying to cross the things off the list that I need to get done each day to have myself ready,” Grove said.
The Dodgers are keeping their players in the loop as much as possible, but they’re not volunteering much information either.
“We usually have one meeting via Zoom a week and they give us some updates, but a lot of times there isn’t one,” Grove admitted. “They’re not telling us anything other than what we really need to know. A lot of the players I keep in touch with are just checking Twitter and talking to their agents to get updates.”
Despite all of the uncertainties, Grove firmly believes an agreement is close and a season — of some sort — will be salvaged.
“It’s a players versus owners issue right now,” Grove said. “I know a lot of people are getting frustrated knowing that we could have been playing by now or at least be back in spring training by now.”
Though he fully understands that professional sports are a business, Grove is among those frustrated.
“It’s frustrating because it doesn’t seem like either side is trying to do what’s in the best interest for the game,” Grove said. “Instead, it seems like both sides are just trying to win the negotiation, which is frustrating. But, I also understand there is a lot of money at stake (in MLB) than there is for me.”
With no hint of inside information, Grove believes that an agreement between MLB and the players union is imminent.
“I am fairly confident we’ll have a season and I think (an agreement) will be announced in the next five or so days. There have been some productive meetings this week and I think worst case scenario is 50 games and best case is close to 70.”
If and when Grove is called back to resume the 2020 season, the one thing that triggered the ongoing labor dispute — COVID-19 — won’t hold him back.
“To each their own as it pertains to the health stuff. I fully respect people who don’t feel comfortable,” Grove said. “But, for me? I am ready to get back to work.”