MLB

‘We have to stay connected’: Anthony Rizzo on missing Opening Day

This past Monday, when his team would have been finishing spring training and heading to Milwaukee for Opening Day if not for the coronavirus outbreak, Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, a former Roberto Clemente Award winner and Man of the Year in MLB, wrote an essay for ESPN.com from his home in South Florida through ESPN MLB reporter Jesse Rogers.

Today, we were supposed to be flying out from spring training, all excited for the start of a new season and on the plane to Milwaukee for Opening Day.

As the weeks go on, all of us are going to be missing baseball more and more. I miss playing already. I miss being around the guys. It’s why I believe you have to keep your brain moving in some way. Athletes are in such a marathon mode during the season and now we have to turn that mentally off, while still staying physically fit.

It’s just such a strange time. The more all of us can stay connected to others, the better we all are. Whether you are a professional athlete or a fan, just trying to stay positive right now, it is so important to keep moving any way you can.

You can be in your living room, doing pushups and situps. Maybe you don’t work out. Just do something to stay active as a way of not just falling into a hole because it’s very easy to do that.

We’re all used to socializing all the time. But right now, we are not. We are at home and it is easy to just sit around and do nothing, but for me, that just doesn’t work. My message and biggest piece of advice: Get into some sort of routine, daily, to get you through so you’re not just wasting away time. Somehow make the most of this forced downtime.

We have to keep moving and keep people encouraged. Sports usually does that. Sports brings people together who normally would not even think about conversing or socializing. Not having sports is so strange. But we have to stay connected.

I’m on a bunch of group texts with teammates and friends. That’s all you can do, especially in the big cities. I’m lucky right now I’m in my backyard so I can move around a little bit, but it’s safer to be in isolation. This is everyone’s opportunity to be a hero by staying away.

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And it’s a good opportunity for everyone to check back in with themselves. Work on themselves. Starting today, my wife, Emily, and I are picking one chore a day. Just doing something around the house that we normally wouldn’t do just to keep our minds moving.

We have also tried to be very active in helping the community during this difficult time. The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation has been sending meals to the health care workers on the front lines at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago and Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Florida. We’ll be sending them to other hospitals directly linked to the coronavirus treatment as well. We’re just trying to spread the love and keep encouraging our doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who are in the thick of this thing. What they’re doing is amazing. I keep thinking about them. Supporting people is so important. And checking in on people is huge. Being alone is not easy.

This is for our parents and grandparents. We want them to be around for a long time. Young people might feel good and healthy, but from what I’ve heard from doctors, you can spread the virus with no symptoms. It is tough being away from my parents right now, but I know it is the right thing to do. So we have to stay together and connected in other ways.

In terms of my new workout routine, I just got back to Florida so we’re just settling in, but I’ll do something to keep in baseball shape. I see the basketball players shooting baskets with socks and Willson [Contreras] having his brother pitch to him with a Nerf gun. I need one of those. Emily is a great athlete, so maybe she can pitch to me a little bit.

It’s going to be really strange missing Opening Day. There’s nothing like Opening Day at Wrigley Field. That should have been next week. It’s a strange time not to be at the park with my teammates and the fans. We all miss it, but we’re hopeful there will still be one. We just have to wait and stay healthy right now. I hope that for everyone.

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