The absence of baseball is unmistakable to Ryne Sandberg as he remains self-quarantined in his Lake Bluff home with his wife, Margaret, and new bernedoodle.
“Every now and then it catches me, and I’m thinking, ‘Wow, this is really something,’ ” he said in a phone interview.
Since he was 18, the Cubs Hall of Famer has had Opening Day circled on his calendar.
March 26th would’ve marked the official start of baseball. The Cubs were scheduled to play in Milwaukee, and the White Sox were slated to host the Royals.
But concern over the spread of the coronavirus put the sports world on hold. The NBA and NHL suspended their seasons indefinitely, and MLB is working on different scenarios to get its season started, whenever that might be.
“This has been very strange on the baseball side of things,” Sandberg said. “Leaving spring training when we did with still about 10 or 12 days left . . . you [saw] the players getting into shape and then five weeks into it, to see that come to a halt and then have everybody basically leave and go home with nothing on the calendar to restart or Opening Day, I mean, it’s really unreal.”
Sandberg, 60, is used to his schedule getting more packed as the weather gets warmer. But he has spent most of his time indoors.
Sandberg joined the Sun-Times for this week’s Chat Room.
How are you staying busy during self-quarantining?
Ryne Sandberg: “My wife and I, it’s just the two of us at our house, and we’re holding up fine. In December, we got a bernedoodle puppy who’s now 50 pounds, and we just put the invisible fence in our yard, covering an acre and a half. So we’re getting some extra time with her, training her, and that’s kind of kept us busy. And we’ve had some visits from some of our grandkids, but just kind of doing our part [staying indoors], watching certain series and movies in the afternoon and evenings.”
What are you watching?
RS: “We started ‘Billions.’ . . . We heard good things from a couple different friends, so we started that. . . . And then we watch our regular shows, ‘A Million Little Things,’ ‘This is Us,’ ‘New Amsterdam,’ and we have some other ones that we watch on a weekly basis.”
What do you think Major League Baseball should do this season?
RS: “I think the only option is an abbreviated season at this point. And the problem right now with management, the baseball teams, the players, everybody involved, I don’t think anybody knows when that season will start. . . . So, the 162 games, I don’t see how they would do that with the weather at the tail end of the season right now. They’re fortunate to get the playoffs and the World Series going into November as it is, so I don’t think you can stretch that out further into November and December with the weather. I don’t see how that’s even possible.
“We’ll have to wait and see. I think everyone’s in the same boat. I feel for the fans, not having the game, which they look forward to. I also feel for the players, who have to perform and be ready. And another thing is for the players to stay away from injuries when they do come back. So they will need some training to fine-tune their skills for a minimum of two weeks once they decide an Opening Day, whenever that is.”
Switching gears to get to know you a little bit better — if you didn’t play baseball, what would you have done for a career?
RS: “I might’ve been an NFL quarterback. I was the Parade magazine All-American quarterback for high school, and I turned that down to play baseball professionally, but I think a sport and possibly football. I probably would’ve gone to college and played football, and then I would’ve tried to or aspired to be an NFL quarterback.
“My No. 2 thing — which when I took the test in school what my interests were and all that — I have a huge love for animals. So a veterinarian might’ve been a second choice if the quarterback thing didn’t work out.”
Do you have any pets other than Elby?
RS: “I have a fish tank that I watch and take care of. . . . It’s a 50-gallon tank, and I have some nice angelfish in there, along with some other community-type fish. But my two angelfish are probably the best.”
What would be your walk-up song for this season?
RS: “It would’ve definitely been something from the ’80s rock genre. Maybe something from Boston or Styx.”