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OC Register: Joe Maddon asks Angels ‘to be the best teammate of their life’

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ANAHEIM — The Angels are just a week into this effort to play a shortened season amid a pandemic and Joe Maddon’s newest signature phrase has become clear.

“Everybody has got to be the best teammate of their life right now.”

The Angels manager has repeated some version of his sentiment just about every day, only he’s not referring to any of the characteristics normally associated with baseball.

“We don’t need you to get the big knock in the ninth inning to drive in the winning run,” Maddon said. “We don’t need you pitch seven scoreless. We don’t need you to grab a hold or pick up a save. We need you to follow the protocols. We need you to follow the protocols to be the best teammate ever.”

The coronavirus, of course, has dramatically changed the world, and Major League Baseball has changed to accommodate it. There are more than 100 pages of regulations that dictate how the players and teams should conduct themselves in a manner that gives them the best chance to avoid infection.

The document covers everything from a prohibition on spitting to instructions on how players should eat on team charters. Only one person at a time, per row, can have his mask off to eat.

The manual, however, has very little detail about what players should do when they aren’t at the ballpark. It is just one paragraph.

“MLB will not formally restrict the activities of Covered Individuals when they are away from Club facilities, but will expect the Covered Individuals on each Club to ensure that they all act responsibly,” the document reads.

It goes on to suggest that the players and staff members “should agree on their own off-field code of conduct for themselves and their family members to minimize the risk to others.”

Andrew Heaney, the Angels’ union player rep, said the message in Zoom meetings has been very clear.

“If you’re not at the field, if you’re not in your car, if you’re not in your house, you need to wear a mask,” the left-hander said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re in a state that doesn’t enforce it. It doesn’t matter. You’re going to wear a mask. If you’re getting food, get it to-go. Get it delivered. Don’t go sit down and eat somewhere. Don’t go to bars. Don’t go to large gatherings.

“Most of those are common sense, and that everyone should be doing that, but we just want to make sure everybody’s on the same page.”

Anthony Rendon said he hasn’t personally been too worried about the coronavirus because no one in his family is at high risk, but now that he’s with his teammates, the third baseman understands the importance of doing things in a certain way, even away from the ballpark.

“We have to wear our masks just to protect other people,” Rendon said. “At this time, we have to be selfless toward everyone around us because we don’t know what everyone’s situation is. And I think this is a good opportunity for, us as a world, to realize that selfishness doesn’t go a long way, so we have to look out for one another.”

Heaney said the players and other staffers in the immediate bubble have all been made aware that one person’s actions can affect not just his teammates, but their families.

“If you start getting a little crack, it can really expand and wreak havoc in the clubhouse,” Heaney said. “Everyone understands that risk is real, and we’re trying to do the best we can to cover all those bases.”

Maddon conceded the younger, single, players may be challenged more to stick to the protocols away from the ballpark. The allure of bars, clubs and restaurants is certainly stronger for single players than for those who are going home to a wife and a family, Maddon said.

“It’s just true,” Maddon said. “The young man that is mature enough to think beyond that is an impressive young man. You don’t know what sacrifice means until you have your own child.”

Certainly, the important considerations are health related. But realistically there are also baseball reasons for preventing the spread of the virus. Even if a player has no symptoms, but tests positive, he must be away from the team until he’s had two negative tests. Key players missing a few games, or a starter missing a turn, can have a dramatic impact in a 60-game sprint of a season.

“We all understand what needs to be done and have to take it upon ourselves to individually be responsible, knowing our teammates are relying on us,” pitcher Canning said. “It’s going to take some time getting used to, but it shouldn’t be too bad.”


Although Julio Teheran told ESPN Deportes earlier in the week he was hoping to rejoin the Angels this weekend if his coronavirus test was negative, Maddon said on Friday he still had no update on Teheran’s status. …

Jo Adell’s line-drive, opposite-field homer in Thursday’s intrasquad game impressed Maddon, but not just because of the way he hit the ball. “The part about it I liked the best was how he broke out of the batter’s box,” Maddon said. “He didn’t assume that was going to be a home run. That was refreshing. So, he did everything right.” Maddon said it’s still too early in camp to judge whether the Angels’ top prospect has improved since spring training. …

The Angels continue to put an emphasis on bunting, just as they did in Arizona. They have a station set up in right field for bunting drills. The have also been bunting during their intrasquad games.

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