Playing sports during a pandemic presents numerous challenges, some of which can be handled through social distancing. But what happens when some positions can’t do so. Catchers face this particular obstacle. Even with the MLB’s ban on spitting, they may be at a higher risk of contracting the virus and spreading it.
“What you’ve got there is a hitter and an umpire, each of them doing different things,” said microbiologist Dr. Dean Hart, who spent 25 years as an Associate Research Scientist and Assistant Professor at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
“An umpire yelling at the top of their voice, ‘Strike!’ That is going to project COVID if the umpire is carrying it. Then the catcher in its unique position. When [batters are] gathering up their energy to swing at a baseball, they’re exhaling hard. If one of [the batters] is positive, you could get the right angle for a hitter — whether you hit or miss, you’re exhaling hard. That’s the proper environment to catch it.”
Concerns On The Rise
From A Catcher’s Point Of View
Is The MLB Facing More Risk?
In general, MLB is going to face more risk due to the lack of a “bubble environment”. Unlike the NBA and NHL, teams are traveling across the country and staying in hotels, causing players to be more susceptible. Even with testing almost every other day, it’s hard to control the outside factors.
Dr. Rand McClain, a sports medicine expert who treats professional athletes and serves as the Chief Medical Officer of LCR Health, agrees there are additional risks by not adhering to a bubble.
“The catcher is technically more at risk, but he really shouldn’t be that much more at risk because of all the [testing] protocols set up so that everyone who enters into the league should be disease free, but we’re finding out that’s not the case,” McClain said.
“I think it’s pretty well known, most transmission occurs at home. Dad or Mom has to come home from work every day. If they bring it home, then the family’s screwed, and that’s the way it has to be looked at with Major League Baseball. Someone doesn’t execute, somebody breaks the rules — ‘It’s just a half hour guys; let’s get a quick drink down the street.’ That’s where it goes wrong, and then anyone’s at risk.”