Detroit Tigers’ Ron Gardenhire: When baseball returns, ‘it’s going to be like a party’

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Ron Gardenhire has sat around like this once before, with little to do, no baseball to play, coach or manage, potentially getting on his wife’s nerves.

“I’ve been in baseball 40 years,” Gardenhire said. “And the only time I’ve sat around like this is when I got fired by the Twins.”

Gardenhire, like the rest of Major League Baseball, remains stuck in a waiting game that isn’t likely to end any time soon.

The Detroit Tigers manager is waiting for MLB and its players association to decide on the next course of action for the 2020 regular season, which recently was delayed until at least May 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic that has forced nearly all of organized sports to a standstill. .

“Everything’s been kind of turned upside down,” Gardenhire said in a conference call Wednesday morning. “It’s been something that I don’t think any of us have ever been through.

“The only time, we went out on strike one time, and that was kind of weird. And then 9/11 kind of stopped baseball for a while, but nothing of this length. So this is definitely something that you really have to adjust to. Your mind is totally locked in on baseball, you go through pretty much the whole spring training in it, and then all of a sudden, it’s a total shutdown and everybody just goes their own way.”

Gardenhire, 62, drove south from the Tigers’ spring training home in Lakeland, Florida, to his winter home in Fort Myers, where he’s spending his social distancing time with his family. It’s a stark contrast from where he was supposed to be: in Cleveland, for Thursday’s Opening Day against the Indians.

“I don’t know how much weirder it can get,” he said. “It’s, you know, ‘Just go home.’ You just leave spring training and we packed up and they said, ‘Get out of here.’ That you can’t sit here and have any kind of planned workouts and all those things.

“Fortunately for me, I live right down the highway, so we just took off and said my goodbyes to the guys and hopefully this won’t last very long and you go from there. It’s something that we just have to deal with, we’re just dealing with it as best we possibly can.

“It’s a crazy situation and everybody’s kind of going about it in their own ways. It’s strange. There’s no precedent.”

Asked if he had heard anything regarding a potential restart of baseball activities — spring training games in Florida and Arizona were suspended on March 12 — Gardenhire said he has heard only what the rest have.

“I’ve talked to (Tigers general manager) Al (Avila) a few times,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any definitive date. I think there’s a lot talked about — we read about it all the time — but no one’s really said anything. Nobody really knows right now. It’s just kind of wait and see where we go.”

The layoff points to the necessity of implementing another spring training of sorts for players to get up to game speed again. Of particular emphasis are the pitchers, who were nearly built up for the regular season. This shutdown will require them to build back up.

“It just depends on how long we stay out,” Gardenhire said. “I mean, the longer you stay out, the probably a little bit more time you’re going to need. But you know, hopefully the players are playing catch and doing all those things. I’m sure they are.”

When spring training play was suspended March 12, the Tigers as a whole elected to stay in Lakeland. But MLB ceased baseball activities a day later, began sending home minor leaguers and players not on a team’s 40-man roster, and all but shut down the facilities early the next week.

“Right now, it’s all about health,” he said. “Everybody’s staying healthy and trying to get away from this terrible thing that’s going on in our country.”

That means, for the time being, no baseball. Or basketball, or hockey. A couple of rounds of golf — Gardenhire and his son, Toby, the Triple-A Rochester manager in the Twins’ organization, got in a round before local courses closed Tuesday — but mostly it has been hanging out at the house and waiting.

“I want to watch these sports on TV just like everybody else,” he said. “I’m a fan just like everybody else. So yeah, I think you know, it’s going to be really exciting when we get back.

“I think everybody misses the heck out of baseball right now, just like I do, and I think it’s going to be relaxing.

“When we get back, it’s going to be like a party. And I look forward to that because my wife, she can only take so much of me during the course of a summer. So I need to get back on a baseball field.”


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