It’s entirely possible Luis Rojas could manage his first big-league game in an empty ballpark, as Major League Baseball contemplates a path forward for the sport that could have all 30 teams playing at a neutral site without fans. For the Mets’ rookie manager, the proposal could mean taking a significant step in his baseball career without family or friends in the stands watching as he delivers the lineup card to the crew chief and knocks another ‘first’ off his bucket list.
Rojas doesn’t want to speculate on the implications of that budding scenario. For now, he’s staying indoors with his wife, Laura, and his 7-year-old son, Luis Felipe, in Port St. Lucie. He and his family are following the health and public safety guidelines as they create new routines and adjust to an unfamiliar lifestyle.
One of Rojas’ new and noteworthy practices includes homeschooling Luis Felipe. The skipper has additional time in his still-busy schedule to sit down with his son and teach him various subjects while schools remain closed.
“It has been unusual but having a lot of fun for sure,” Rojas said in a text. “He remembers everything we do with the homework and reading we do!”
When Rojas isn’t spending time with his family, he’s hosting regular phone calls and conferences with Mets brass and players. Video conferencing on platforms like Zoom plays a major role in his staff’s daily routine while avoiding meeting in-person.
Rojas stays connected to his players and reiterates their personalized workout plans, which are constantly evolving depending on potential timelines for the start of the season. Several members of the Mets’ baseball operations department participate on those calls, including general manager Brodie Van Wagenen.
“We’ve been in communication but this is such a challenging time for everyone,” Rojas said. “Most significantly the sick, the health care workers, first responders and those who have lost their jobs. We hope that baseball can be part of the healing of our society when it’s safe. In the meantime, our pitchers and position players are staying in shape the best they can so they will be ready when we return.
“We’re also staying home following the health and public safety guidelines. We are utilizing video conferences to stay connected with different areas of the organization and adjusting to the ever changing environment as needed.”
Adjusting to unknown situations is, by now, second nature to Rojas. The 38-year-old served in the Mets system since 2007 as a minor league coach and manager. Before the 2019 season, he was promoted to his first major league coaching staff and handled the Mets first-ever quality control coach duties. Rojas was elevated to Mets manager nearly three months ago — after the team parted ways with Carlos Beltran for his involvement in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.
Rojas, a native of the Dominican Republic, was born into a family of baseball royalty. His father, Felipe Alou, was a former major league outfielder and manager. His brother, Moises Alou, was a six-time All-Star for the Expos, Marlins, Giants, Astros, Cubs and Giants before he finished his career with the Mets. His uncles, Matty and Jesus Alou, became World Series champions in the 1960s and ‘70s.
Shadowing his father prepared Rojas to manage in a big-league dugout and growing up with his brother and uncles planted the seeds for his expansive baseball IQ. But not even baseball royalty like the Alous could have foreseen the current global crisis, which has put the Mets chances of contending behind a rookie manager on hold.
Prior to the delay in the season, players were rallying behind Rojas. They had completely moved on from the sign-stealing saga that drove Beltran out of Flushing. Instead, homegrown All-Stars Jacob deGrom, Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil — plus a handful of other players that all played under Rojas in the minors — supported the young, but serious first-year manager as he prepared to embark on a journey he called a “dream come true.”
That energy has now shifted to virtual communication. But nonetheless, it lives on.
“The communication particularly between the players, coaches and our performance team has been constant,” Van Wagenen said in a text. “As circumstances change almost daily, player plans are being adjusted and modified based on the individual resources available to each player. We have a special group of players who believe in and support one another. They are committed to being at their best and bringing joy to our fans when it is safe for baseball to return.”
Rojas has deviated from his previous workout schedule at the Mets spring training facility, but he still wakes up early and does an at-home exercise routine in his garage. It’s one of the many customs that have changed for Rojas in the past few weeks. Soon, managing a big-league game in an empty ballpark may be another.
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