KAUFMANN: Choose to take one for the team

Major League Baseball is underway across the nation amid hype and high hopes. Twenty-six of the 30 teams played on opening day, kicking off a full schedule of 162 regular season games. This was an especially sweet beginning for fans after 2020’s truncated season. And the fans were there – in limited numbers, with masks on, but they were there.

League commissioner Rob Manfred reflected, “I have never seen the kind of anticipation for an opening day that I sense with respect to this one.”

Leading up to the big day, players and their families followed strict safety protocols to keep COVID-19 cases and quarantines at a minimum. And it worked.  Only one team had to delay their first game due to a positive test.

This type of discipline and accountability gives me hope for the rest of us, as well. Many of us are tired of the pandemic, of its restrictions and requirements. We wonder how long our community will be threatened by this insidious virus and its variants. We are tempted to let down our guard.

There are reasons to believe, however, that the final innings are in sight. Vaccines are becoming available to increasing numbers of us, and if we combine vaccination with our current tools of masking, social distancing, testing and quarantining, we may be able to turn the tide.

Again, another parallel from the MLB: their current plan is to mass vaccinate all players and staff who are willing. If teams reach an 85 percent or greater vaccination rate, then they will be allowed to remove safety protocols among themselves. However, when they are out in public, they still plan to mask up. Getting through the season depends on it.

St. Louis Cardinals president John Moseliak said it well: “I do feel… there’s this sense that the pandemic is behind us. I don’t think that’s a healthy mentality yet.”

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that professional baseball players are willing to “take one for the team.” In fact, this popular expression has its roots in the game itself. To help his teammates advance to the next base, a batter will sometimes sacrifice his average by hitting a fly ball or bunt. To make the double play, a shortstop sometimes uses his body to block the runner sliding into base.

I asked my baseball aficionado friends for examples of “taking one for the team.” In addition to the above examples, they also mentioned getting hit by the pitcher to get on base, and even getting beaned as revenge for a previous walk. It seems that in the collective effort to win the game, players are routinely required to trade their personal comfort for the good of the team. Baseball takes patience and strategy.

Our community is also grappling with an opponent that will require patience and strategy to beat. We can choose to take one for the team by getting vaccinated, getting tested, quarantining, wearing masks, social distancing and hand washing – each of us making the right play at the right time. We need to play smart. If enough of us do our part, we can all make it through this season.

And who knows — we might even win the game.

Chrissie Kaufmann is a group fitness instructor at the YMCA of Greater Michiana.

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