Tampa – After more than three months of waiting, Yankees’ Luke Voight was among the players who were relieved that the MLB shutdown had ended.
“It was a good feeling getting up today and knowing I had a job again,” Voight said Friday, the day after that. MLB and the Players Association have reached an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement.
The conclusion came after his first hiatus from the sport in more than two decades. As Commissioner Rob Manfred noted when he announced the deal Thursday, there is still work to be done to calm matters after a contentious battle.
“They shut us down and it took a while for discussions to start,” Voight said of the delay following the start of the lockdown on December 2. “This was frustrating on our part, but we were ready to go at any time.”
Voight wasn’t just worried about his fellow players.
“The fans are everything in this game,” Voight said after a practice at a local high school, where he was joined by teammates DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge, as well as other MLB players.
“We are the producer in the field, so we just want to be there for them,” Voight said. “We just don’t want to lose fans and keep pushing this and keep pushing this. They really deserve to be there. We’re still at 162 [games]. This was a common goal between the two parties.”
“Everyone wants to play,” Limaheu said. “It’s work, too.”
Now, they need to get a physical exam, with a mandatory report date on Sunday before the short spring training.
“I had a feeling [a deal was close] Several times already, so I didn’t get my hopes up [Thursday] Before it becomes official,” said LeMahieu. “Now it’s all about figuring out everything, how to get down here, when to get down here and when to start. I’m just excited to go again.”
And after the dust settled, many Yankees on Friday did what they’ve consistently done in recent weeks during the MLB shutdown: They played ball, something they’ve done for the past month or so in order to stay fit in the event of a deal.
They’re not alone, which is why LeMahieu doesn’t think abbreviated spring training – which would be less than four weeks instead of six – would affect the game much.
“I don’t think it will have that much of an impact,” LeMahieu said. “I think everyone has been up and running and ready to go. I don’t think any of us sit around and watch TV in the off-season. I think everyone is physically ready to go.”
All of the off-season preparations aren’t like the real thing, Voight said, which he’s looking forward to.
“We try to do everything we can to stay prepared,” Voight said of the live batting and ground ball practice on the field. “I want to put on my baseball shorts and get into the hitter’s box and hit the ball.”
He cited the cut-off for Spring Training 2.0 for 2020, after COVID-19 shut down the sport for three months as evidence that players will be fine by opening day on April 7.
The process began in earnest on Thursday, when team officials were able to contact the players again for the first time since the start of the shutdown.
All coaches called [Thursday] Voight said. “Everyone was in good spirits because we could play baseball again.”
“Prone to fits of apathy. Introvert. Award-winning internet evangelist. Extreme beer expert.”