‘Baseball thing has to take back seat’ to global pandemic, White Sox’ Lucas Giolito says

“We wish we were out there playing. At the same time, we are in the middle of a crisis, and we can’t force the issue,” Giolito says.

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“Baseball, America’s pastime, it brings people together. We’re missing that right now,” White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito said of the effect of the pandemic. “But, at the same time, there are some more important things going on. There are, unfortunately, people dying from this. ...  The whole baseball thing does have to take a back seat.”

“Baseball, America’s pastime, it brings people together. We’re missing that right now,” White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito said of the effect of the pandemic. “But, at the same time, there are some more important things going on. There are, unfortunately, people dying from this. ... The whole baseball thing does have to take a back seat.”

David J. Phillip/AP

Right-hander Lucas Giolito compared the possibility of playing baseball games in empty stadiums to minor-league and spring-training experiences on the back training fields in Arizona and Florida. If having to play in front of no fans if baseball resumes this season becomes a reality, so be it.

Giolito and every other player will just have to reach down and deal with it.

“That’s definitely not the most enjoyable experience for a player,” Giolito said on a conference call Tuesday. “I really love to feed off the crowd’s energy, whether that’s at home and everyone’s rooting for me or if we’re on the road and I want to shut all the other fans up. I like that part of the game.

“[But] I don’t think it has too much of an effect. If things matter, if games matter, we’d be able to go and get it done with or without fans in the stadium. But I’d definitely prefer to have fans.”

It would beat not playing at all. Major League Baseball hopes to get as many games as possible into its 2020 season, which is on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic. But when major-league cities such as Toronto announce, as it did Tuesday, the banning of all city-led public events until June 30 (though sporting events aren’t specifically barred), everything from half a schedule to playing well into November to playing at neutral sites to playing at least a portion of games in front of television and radio audiences only is in play.

Giolito realizes sports are important to people, but he knows a global pandemic is bigger than baseball.

“It’s a tough one,” Giolito said. “Baseball, America’s pastime, it brings people together. We’re missing that right now.

“But, at the same time, there are some more important things going on. There are, unfortunately, people dying from this. It seems like it continues to spread more and more. The whole baseball thing does have to take a back seat.”

Last weekend, Giolito and his wife drove from the White Sox’ spring-training complex in Glendale, Arizona, to his home in California, where he is riding things out, taking all the necessary precautions and “crushing” a lot of TV from his couch. He watched five episodes of “Love Is Blind,” a reality show on Netflix, on Monday night. He’s also staying in contact with Sox pitching coaches Don Cooper and Curt Hasler and the Sox’ medical team and maintaining a throwing program as best he can.

“I’ve got a home gym set up in my garage,” said Giolito, who would have made the Sox’ Opening Day start against the Royals at Guaranteed Rate Field last Thursday and his second start against the Indians on Tuesday in Cleveland. “I have a net in my backyard, and I’m monitoring throwing.”

The current state that Giolito exists in is “weird. It almost feels like some sort of weird purgatory,” he said.

“We were in spring-training mode; everybody is on the same page. We were having a great camp, guys were coming together, and we were making great progress as a club. We were getting prepared for a really great season, and just out of nowhere, not very much warning, it was like, ‘All right, we have to shut it down, and everyone is on hold until further notice.’

“So it’s a weird vibe for guys like me; pretty much every guy around the league will probably tell you the same thing. It sucks. We wish we were out there playing. At the same time, we are in the middle of a crisis, and we can’t force the issue. We have to let everything run its course, and hopefully we can get this going as soon as possible.”

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