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Boroski excited for new MLB season

Stan Boroski has experienced now 11 Opening Days during his career as a Major League Baseball coach.

Friday’s opener, however, will be one that’s not forgotten anytime soon, and that’s not because of anything that happened on the field against the Toronto Blue Jays.

“I am very excited,” Boroski said in a recent interview. “I’ve been looking forward to this for quite sometime. I didn’t think it would take this long, but I am glad it got worked out and everyone’s ready to go.”

The Buckeye South and Ohio University, who is the bullpen coach of the Tampa Bay Rays, was — like other MLB players and coaches — ready to go in March when the season came to a halt because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Months — and plenty of negotiating –the season resumed earlier this month when the teams opened ‘Summer Camps’ at their respective ballparks.

Though Boroski knew normal wasn’t going to be anything like he was accustomed to, he got a full reality check of it when he reported back to work and underwent multiple COVID and antibody tests before even being able to set foot inside Tropicana Field.

“It was a very strange feeling (when camp resumed),” Boroski said. “We didn’t have everyone available because they weren’t cleared (medically). We had some guys who stayed local that were coming in and getting some work in fairly regularly, but we didn’t have access to the clubhouse or anything. We just had temperatures checked, went straight onto the field, worked out and left.”

During the few weeks leading up to the season, a handful of players and coaches elected to opt out from the season, citing concerns about coronavirus. Boroski, however, has “no nerves or apprehensions” about COVID-19.

“Everyone who walks into the ballpark is going through the same testing protocols,” Boroski said. “We’re tested basically every other day and if someone tests positive, it’s going to get caught almost immediately, so that person will be taken out of the mix for the appropriate time.”

Though baseball is back, there are some nuances to this season, which will be a 60-game sprint to October, that might take some getting used to. For instance, both leagues are using a designated hitter, an extra innings game will see the last out of the previous inning be placed at second base to begin the inning. Another quirk is the schedule, which has the American League East playing just within its division and against the National League East.

“As for the DH in both leagues, I, personally, think it’s about time,” Boroski said. “I hope that sticks because I don’t think fans (when they’re permitted inside) are paying to watch pitchers hit. I would love to see universal DH.”

When he thinks about the extra inning format, Boroski isn’t as keen on the idea.

“I would like to see the game played the way it’s supposed to be played, but I realize (this format) has helped in the minor leagues,” Boroski said. “But, big-league games should be played as is.”

One aspect that Boroski loves is the fact the schedule changes makes travel much easier. Actually, unless the Rays make the playoffs, he won’t have to leave the Eastern Time Zone for the entire season.

“I am no spring chicken and those (road) trips, especially out west wear you down,” Boroski laughed.

Boroski does hope that fans are able to return at some point this season. While players will play and coaches will coach, regardless of the atmosphere, Boroski admits that players do feed off the emotion of the stadium.

“The lack of noise will make it very, very strange,” Boroski said.

Along with the in-game rule changes, the protocols that have been put in place by MLB are also extensive. Boroski and the Rays’ relievers will still be stationed in the bullpen, but each time he touches the phone, it’ll need to be sanitized. Each pitcher has his own bag of baseballs, social distancing is observed and a bottle of hand sanitizer is readily available.

“I’m not sure if I will wear a mask during the games or not. We’re not required to by rule, but I’ve had to wear one during the workouts,” Boroski said.

Though baseball is what Boroski does for a career, first and foremost, he’s a huge fan of the game. He, like other fans, spent much of the quarantine following the progress between the players and owners as they sorted through issues dealing with payment, service time, opt-out clauses, etc.

As a coach, Boroski said he and the others around MLB were “about as stuck in the middle as you could possibly be.”

“As a member of the coaching staff, we get limited benefits (pension and health care) from the union, but we’re not full members, and we obviously have to deal with the players every day,” Boroski continued. “We pay union dues and we’re appreciative of what (the union) provides us, but we’re not in their meetings nor do we vote.”

As he watched the negotiations through the media and talking with some of his close friends in the business, he was surprised that the two sides couldn’t come to a mutual agreement, but he’s glad Commissioner Rob Manfred didn’t just pull the plug on the season.

“I think everyone wishes it didn’t come down to Rob Manfred having to mandate the start date,” Boroski said. “But, I am glad we’re back at it.”

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