FARGO — This upcoming Sunday, Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks outfielder Brennan Metzger plans to start his drive from San Diego to Fargo for the American Association baseball season.
Metzger estimates around 33 hours of drive time that he will spread over three days.
“I can’t wait. I’m ready to go,” said Metzger, who is set to start his third season with the RedHawks. “I’m sure a lot of us … weren’t too sure that this was even going to be possible.”
Late last week, the American Association announced it would start an abbreviated 60-game regular season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The regular season was slated to start in May and last 100 games, but those plans were altered due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Metzger has Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease of the digestive tract. Every eight weeks, he has to get a three-hour infusion of medication to help manage the disease.
Despite his medical condition, the 30-year-old Metzger said it didn’t sway his decision to play baseball this season during a pandemic.
“I try not to live in fear. I’m cautious, I’m conscious of it, but I’m not fearful of it,” Metzger said. “I’m going to try to do the right things to be safe, be healthy.”
According to the American College of Gastroenterology and the Journal of Crohn’s and Colitis, an Inflammatory Bowel Disease like Crohn’s disease alone doesn’t increase the risk for COVID-19 compared to the general public, but certain medications that treat Crohn’s can suppress the immune system.
“It can technically make me immunosuppressed,” Metzger said of his medication treatments. “It’s one of those things that I’ve obviously thought about.”
Metzger said he’s going to do what he can to protect himself from COVID-19, including wearing a mask in public areas. He’s also confident with the precautions the league has in place to keep everyone safe. American Association teams have “COVID Readiness Plans” in place to protect players, fans and any other personnel involved with the season.
“I’ve gotten kind of used to doing that,” Metzger said of wearing a mask in public areas. “It’s one of those where it is a little inconvenient, it’s a little different, but It’s not like it’s a life-changing, life-altering thing to do. I don’t really have a problem doing that.”
RedHawks general manager Matt Rau said players will be tested before they start spring training, which begins June 25. Rau said if a player shows symptoms during any point of spring training or regular season, that player will be isolated and tested. If that player tests positive, the entire team will get retested. In addition, players will also get tested several times throughout the season.
“They know we’re doing everything we can do to keep them safe,” Rau said.
Rau said players aren’t required to wear masks in the dugout, clubhouse or on bus rides, but can if they choose.
“It’s at their discretion,” Rau said.
Metzger said he hasn’t decided if he is going to wear masks in areas like the clubhouse or on bus rides, since people in those areas are being tested and also having daily temperature checks.
“Everybody understands going into this thing it’s going to be weird, it’s going to be different, however, it’s an opportunity that most people aren’t getting right now,” Metzger said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Expected to be one of the few professional baseball leagues to play this summer, Metzger is excited to show off the league’s quality of play that he thinks will only be increased with only six of 12 teams operating this season. Some of the best talent from the teams not playing has been distributed among the six teams that are.
“We have an opportunity to get going and potentially be the only high-level professionals in America right now,” Metzger said. “The league is going to be really, really talented.”
With the possibility that minor league teams may not operate this summer, Rau said that could be beneficial for American Association players who put together a solid season.
“From a player perspective, the exposure of this league is going to be at an all-time high,” Rau said.
Metzger is excited to get the chance to play in front of fans again.
“I think it’s going to be amazing for just the baseball communities that are going in these hub cities that are going to get to see some baseball,” Metzger said. “I think the risk is worth the reward at this point for the well-being of everybody’s sanity. That’s also one of those things that’s very important.”