“The first couple of months of all this, I was going crazy,” Dwight Gooden stated. “Then, I started getting out of the house a little, going down to Maryland every three weeks to see my grandkids. That gave me stuff to do. Now baseball’s coming back and also basketball. It’s a short season, but I’ll take it as a fan. It’s all about adapting and acceptance. We’ve all had to accept what’s going on.”
Nobody is aware of adapting and acceptance the way in which that Gooden does, as this COVID-compressed baseball season is lastly set to start.
“I have my mask and my gloves,” he stated. “I’ll admit it. I got a little comfortable going out and not wearing gloves. A good friend of mine—a gentleman, he’s 82 years old—he was getting on me for not wearing gloves. And he’s right. It’s better to be overprotective than caught off guard. But I’m healthy. Kids are healthy. Grandkids are healthy. What else can you ask for?”
That’s a straightforward query, and Gooden is aware of the reply. You can ask for baseball.
Thirty-six years after he first set the town on hearth, the previous Mets and Yankees pitching phenom nonetheless holds a singular place within the hearts of New York sports activities followers. Nobody was higher than “Doc,” because the followers appreciated to name the strikeout king, for “Dr. K.” Certainly, no one’s been by extra.
How massive a baseball fan is he? Big sufficient that over the previous couple of months, he stated, he’s gotten up a number of instances at 5 within the morning to look at stay baseball from South Korea—with no followers within the stands. “Now that was weird,” he stated.
“I was 7 years old when I started watching games with my dad,” he recalled as he ready for the strangest Opening Day of contemporary instances, which comes on Thursday. “Watching games on TV. Going to spring training” close to the Gooden household dwelling in Tampa, Fla. “Going to the ballpark when I started to play. And every year, baseball came back again.”
Until it didn’t.
“As a fan, I’m greedy,” stated Gooden, now 55. “I wish we were getting more than 60 games. I’d like 80 games, close to half a season. But considering everything that’s happened this year, we gotta be happy for what we can get.” And this season guarantees contemporary surprises. “Sixty games is like a wild card. Anybody could win. Pittsburgh. Seattle maybe. Your team, whoever it is—every team gets hot at some point. Anything can happen.”
But that’s the fan speaking. The ex-player in Gooden is having hassle shaking one concern.
“I hate to say it,” he stated, “but there’s a flip side. If I was an official or a player, especially a pitcher, I don’t know if I would take part. It’s sad because I want these guys to play. But I think there’s a high risk of injury. I hope I’m wrong. But the training just wasn’t there. Once they stopped spring training and people had to work out on their own—it’s not the same. You can’t just go out there and play.”
And the empty stands this yr will take some getting used to, for certain.
“It would be very difficult if I were playing and pitching to have no fans there,” Gooden stated. “It’s almost gonna seem like an exhibition game. Especially when you play in New York where it’s always loud. No disrespect to anyone else. But guys who’ve been playing in small towns, they may not notice such a difference. They don’t have that many fans anyway. But here, players are motivated by fans whether they’re cheering for you or they’re booing. You use that to get the extra inch. I’m sorry, but piping in crowd noise over the intercom—that’s too strange.”
Then, there’s the sticky difficulty of statistics. Baseball, in any case, is a sport of recorded occasions.
“If a guy has an 0.0 ERA or he hits .400—should that go into the record books? Should that affect his contract? It’s not the same as 162 games.”
But regardless of all of it, one factor’s for sure: Gooden will be watching when the Yankees meet the Nationals on Thursday in Washington. He’ll be watching when the Mets host the Braves on Friday in Queens. And he’ll maintain watching all the way in which until the tip.
Too unhealthy, he stated, Yankee Stadium and Citi Field don’t have unofficial viewing spots on the roof of a close-by bar, the way in which Wrigley Field in Chicago does.
“The guy who owns the bar, he can charge a fortune for those seats,” Gooden stated. “They have some buildings in the Bronx, I guess. But you’d probably be arrested if you tried to go up there.”