MESA, Ariz. — Cubs infielder David Bote is still trying to wrap his mind around baseball’s shutdown as he shows up for work at the team’s spring facility in Arizona, looking for ways to stay ready and things he can accomplish with no games or formal practices.
“I made some bread last night,” he said with a smile Wednesday morning. “I’m the cook in the family. I cook all the time.”
If this shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic gets pushed back much further, at least Bote’s wife and young kids have a pretty good idea where to find dad.
“I’ve got flour and yeast,” Bote said. “I can make all sorts of bread.”
In lieu of answers and timelines, baseball players staying behind at spring camps are doing their best to laugh.
Like many of the handful of Cubs players still on the ground in Arizona trying to stay in shape for a season they can only hope will be played, Bote spends much of his thoughts on extended family and the life-and-death severity of the global health crisis.
“This isn’t about me,” he said. “This is about us.”
Tenured teammates such as Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward have committed resources to helping those in need – Heyward announcing Wednesday morning $200,000 in donations to Chicago charities offering food and other necessities to those impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
The Cubs are among teams continuing to pay spring stipends to low-wage minor-leaguers as longer terms plans for those players are being discussed.
And every team in the majors has committed $1 million each for hourly ballpark workers idled by the shutdown.
Major leaguers of varying resources remain in limbo, including financial limbo in some cases, as paychecks remain on hold along with the season openers and players don’t know which way to go.
“We’re just trying to make the best decision with the information we have,” said Bote, who extended his spring rental agreement an additional month through April to allow him to remain as fluid as possible for a few more weeks.
“Hopefully, we have a few more concrete answers in a month,” he said.
Until then, he said, “I’m just trying to keep my family safe, keep my family healthy, also while staying in the best possible baseball shape I can so once the season starts I’m ready.
“It’s weird. It’s very weird.”
Bote’s wife, Rachel, and three kids – ages 4, 2, and 11 months – are with him in Arizona as he waits out the next update. They also have a house in Colorado, where they live in the offseason, and he’s dealing with a rental commitment made for the season in Chicago.
Bote doesn’t make the real big money that some teammates do. He made just over the major-league minimum last year even after signing a five-year, $15 million deal. And this year’s salary might be in jeopardy because of the standard clause in all contracts that make them subject to possible reductions based on games not played due to national emergencies.
But he’s certainly not complaining, he said, as he watches what many others are dealing with as the crisis changes and deepens daily.
“We need to be looking out for each other,” Bote said. “This is a wakeup call, that people’s lives do matter and people are losing loved ones, losing parents and grandparents.”
Bote has a brother who is a teacher in Guatemala and who is quarantined in a small apartment by himself.
“We’re FaceTiming and making sure he gets what he needs so he’s not just alone in an apartment in Guatemala,” Bote said.
In the meantime, Bote goes to work. And waits for the next update on when – or even if – a season will be played.
“I’ve explained it as a bad rain delay,” he said with a laugh, describing those bad-weather days that look impossible for baseball despite officials pushing back delays an hour or two at a time into the wee hours.
“Now it’s 1 in the morning, now it’s 2 in the morning, and, ‘Oh, this game’s not going to get played. Go home.’ That’s what it feels like,” he said.
“This is so unprecedented. And nobody knows.”