The date had been circled on the calendars for months. On March 26, baseball would be back, signaling, for many, the end of a long winter. The Minnesota Twins were schedule to play the A’s in Oakland on Thursday, March 26.
The beginning of a new season always brings optimism — especially this year in Minnesota, where the Twins, coming off one of the best seasons in franchise history, looked primed for a postseason return. Now, March 26 is just another day. It will come and go with no baseball games played, just like the days before it and the many days to follow it.
“It will be odd, there’s no doubt,” Twins president Dave St. Peter said last week on a conference call with reporters. “Those dates have been in our minds ever since we got the first look at the 2020 schedule. We recognize we are not going to be playing baseball here. But symbolically, it’s a key date on the calendar that I’m sure our people will take note of one way or another.”
The Twins’ scheduled Opening Day will come and go with no concrete plans to restart, as COVID-19 spreads through the country, shutting down virtually everything that is considered non-essential. MLB officials continue to work through a variety of scenarios, including ones that would have the season be played late into the year, at which point neutral-site locations would have to be looked at to avoid weather issues in Minnesota and other cold-weather climates.
MLB and the MLB Players Association have expressed hope that the season could begin by early June, per an ESPN report.
And while the goal is to play as many games as possible, the possibility of playing none at all — which Twins closer Taylor Rogers referred to as the “doomsday scenario” earlier this week — is still on the table, as the virus has yet to reach its peak with health officials warning it is still going to get worse.
“I was thinking about it, that (Thursday) would be Opening Day, and it won’t be able to happen,” designated hitter Nelson Cruz said on Monday. “We have to stay where we are at and have to stay confident, and when that moment comes, we will be excited like it is March 26 if that is the case.”
Whether they play a partial season or no games at all, the 2020 Twins might become a “what-if” to ponder for years to come. Given a full season — and with the addition of slugging third baseman Josh Donaldson — could they have shattered the home run record they set last season? They were — and still are — in a position to have one of the best seasons in team history, improving upon a team that won 101 games in 2019 with additions like Donaldson, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Tyler Clippard and more. What would that look like across a full season? How deep into the playoffs could they go?
There are many, many more important things than baseball right now. But when it does come back, whenever that may be, there is the sense that it could help provide some comfort.
“You hold out hope that … baseball will play a huge role in helping us heal, and that’s what I’m looking forward to and that’s what’s driving us every day,” St. Peter said.