680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – In the world of “new norms”, much has changed for those of us who cover sports on a daily basis. Gone (for now) are the days of being in a clubhouse to chat with players and coaches, as is our daily sit down with the manager in the dugout and the ability to watch batting practice from behind the cage. Hopefully, when things return to normal, we’ll get all those back. It’s honestly one of the things I miss most about this job, having a chance to chat with a guy at his locker and dig up stories to bring to you the listener and reader. But, I’m certainly not complaining as there are much bigger things going on in our world today. So, over the last month, it’s gotten progressively more natural to do all our interviews remotely on Zoom. But, you never know exactly what to expect when you log on every day. Early on in camp, it was the bad news regarding four players who tested positive for COVID-19. Then, we find out that Felix Hernandez, Nick Markakis and first base coach Eric Young were opting out of the approaching season. But, on Wednesday afternoon, when we logged on, we got quite the surprise as Nick Markakis popped onto the screen.
“I missed you guys. I missed dealing with you guys on a daily basis so I decided to come back” Markakis said with a smile as he discussed his decision to opt back in for the 2020 season. “Sometimes in life you make rash decisions without thinking things through. At the time, I thought it was the right decision and it still could be but I’m going against my decision” Markakis added. The time period he’s referring to was back on July 3 when he spoke with Freddie Freeman. At the time, Freeman was dealing with the brunt of COVID-19 and dealing with a fever that peaked at 104.5 degrees. Having three sons and a wife at home, Nick was concerned about the health and safety protocols everyone would endure during this accelerated season. But, after time and conversations with Alex Anthopoulos, Freddie Freeman and others, Markakis’ concerns were eased and his desire to play returned.
While Nick understands there’s still an element of risk associated with playing sports (see: Miami Marlins outbreak), he also trusts Major League Baseball will do everything possible to prevent a repeat performance of what we’ve seen this week as now 17 of Miami’s 30 players on their roster have tested positive. When Nick decided to walk away at the beginning of the month, it not only left a void among outfielders and left handed bats, but also took away a great veteran leader in the clubhouse. His teammates are beyond thrilled for Nick’s change of heart and will look forward to having him back on the Big League roster in the coming days. For now, he’ll work out at the satellite camp in Gwinnett. But knowing Nick the way I do and how well he takes care of his body, it won’t be long until number 22 is back in uniform, perhaps as early as the next few days.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet.