The Iso: Jeff McNeil
The Players’ Tribune is introducing a new series called The Iso. With so many of us keeping our distance from each other in a variety of ways, we decided to ask some of our favorite athletes to share how they’ve been dealing with life in the Covid-19 world, and how they’re spending their time away from their sport.
I think it became real when basketball players started testing positive. I remember sitting on my couch and seeing that on TV. Then they basically shut down the NBA right there.
The next day, some teammates and I were supposed to go on a little two-day road trip. But we didn’t know anymore if that was gonna happen. Then they ended up just canceling spring training. It was pretty crazy — kind of shocking — and no one really knew what was going on. So it’s been a crazy few weeks and months.
Since then, I’ve been in quarantine in Port St. Lucie with my wife, Tatiana, and, of course, Willow and Mac. It was either stay here or go back to California, where it’s the same thing going on, but worse. We weren’t sure how long this was going to last, so we thought it best to stay here for now. We can always go back if it’s going to be longer, but in the meantime Tatiana and I, along with our pets, Willow and Mac, will be staying put in Florida.
I’m around my teammates a lot. It’s just the guys who are still in St. Lucie. That’s me, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, J.D. Davis, and Tomas Nido. We have a batting cage that we use to get our swings in and everything (while making sure we keep our distance). Also, a few of us have snuck in a few rounds of golf down here, too, but we’d definitely rather be playing baseball. But we’re around each other.
Our little Quarantine Co. has been playing catch together. We can do our flips and tee work. Trying to keep our swings in the best shape possible. But it’s going to be tough not seeing live pitching and then being expected to go back to spring training — whenever that happens — and be ready in a week or two. It’s not normal, but I guess it’s the same for everyone. We’re not going out in public and interacting with anybody else, though. We decided to be the only people we’re ever around, so we feel pretty comfortable being with our little group.
Me and Tatiana are helping keep Netflix alive. We did a rewatch of Ozark to prep for the third season that just came out. I’ve seen the first two, but she hadn’t, so that was fun to binge. We’re watching a lot of movies and shows. I actually got a Twitch channel now because I’m playing a lot of PlayStation, playing MLB The Show. I also recently started playing Call of Duty with Pete Alonso and Brandon Nimmo on my Twitch channel (twitch.tv/jeffmcneil).
On Opening Day, I was chasing a snake out of our pool. We had put a fence around the area, and I saw that a snake had gotten in the pool somehow, so that was my Opening Day. I was chasing a snake.
If I’m being honest, it’s weird not having any sports right now. I don’t like it. Usually, I’m always watching sports on TV. Every weekend there’s something, some big sporting event on. I think that’s been one of the toughest parts — life without sports. And I think that’s what fans are struggling with, too.
We haven’t really gotten a timeline at all. We have no clue what’s going on. Major League Baseball is going by the CDC guidelines and all that stuff. So I guess when the country reopens, we’ll be ready to go. It’s tough. I think the thing that worries us most is whether we are going to have a season or not. We just have no idea if this thing will drag all the way into June, July. Who knows what the season will look like?
We’re obviously throwing some ideas around in the group chats about how we might recoup some of that time. There’s been some talk of doubleheaders — two doubleheaders a week, or something like that. Try to play as many games as possible. I think a lot of players would be O.K. with that. Another scenario we considered was those doubleheaders being seven innings. That’s what we did in the minors. Every doubleheader in the minor leagues was seven innings. You’re still getting seven good innings in, and it’s the same for the other team. I think a lot of players would agree to that.
It’s like another off-season. That’s how you gotta think about it. But I try not to really think about it too much.
I’ve learned in my career that sometimes you just gotta make the best of it. Athletes have to deal with stressful stuff in sports and our lives sometimes, and this is kind of like that. And you know what? We’re trying to make things O.K. by hanging out with each other and making it not so bad — having a lot of little barbecues with the four guys who are still here, doing whatever we can to make it good.
I just want to say, I know that it’s tough. Thank you to everyone fighting the coronavirus on the front lines — all of the doctors and everyone working in the hospitals, everyone involved. You’re doing an amazing and impossible job. We support you guys. And to the fans: It is what it is right now. But we’re fighting to beat this thing, and, hopefully, we get baseball and sports and back to our normal lives as soon as possible.