FORT MYERS, Fla. — The high-five is too high-risk for the Red Sox.
As part of their battle plan to combat the spread of coronavirus in their closed and highly contagious quarters, the Red Sox have asked their uniformed employees to find alternative methods of celebration — the elbow bump will do — rather than slapping hands up high or down low.
“Probably the hardest thing for us in this industry is not to high five because you do it multiple times during a game,” said manager Ron Roenicke Monday morning. “A guy comes in and everybody is (high-fiving). I don’t know that we’re quite there but there were some elbows (Sunday). Guys are thinking about it. Hopefully we get a handle on this worldwide and we don’t have to think about this too much more.”
The topic is as impossible to avoid in the baseball world as it is everywhere else. Late Monday afternoon, MLB held a conference call with the 30 owners on the topic.
Team physician Larry Ronan addressed the team Sunday morning for 20 minutes about the dangers posed by the fast-spreading Covid-19 virus.
Ronan included a PowerPoint presentation that MLB has sent to all clubs, covering topics such as “What is coronavirus, what are the symptoms, how does it spread and preventative measures,” said Red Sox spokesperson Kevin Gregg, who attended the session Sunday. "Then it was, 'Here’s what MLB is doing about it, here’s what you can do about it to protect yourself and your family.’ ”
Ronan also addressed the minor leaguers and minor league coaches and staff. A Spanish translation occurred right after his talks.
The slide about precautions featured the same information offered to the general public by medical professionals and the CDC: stay away from sick people, avoid touching your face, stay at home if sick and regularly disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
The slide also advised players to “use your own pen when giving autographs and avoid taking items from fans.”
That aspect of spring training prompted the most questions from the players.
"Guys were trying to understand what’s safe and what’s to be recommended, especially as it relates to fan interaction,” said Gregg. "We recommended to them to use your best judgment. If someone’s uncomfortable signing autographs, that’s fine. The team will provide some items to them that are pre-signed as an alternative. Fan interaction in spring training is important, and it’s important for us to find appropriate alternatives while we are in this situation and I think fans understand this, too. Everyone wants to be safe, but there are a lot of opportunities to interact.”
Said Roenicke: "Obviously it’s a concern. I don’t want to say right now just stay away from everybody. Right now spring training is a huge interaction with fans and it’s nice they can be out there on the practice fields walking around. Just for us to be careful with what we do.”
The Red Sox have used Clorox products for several years for the bulk of their disinfecting and defumigating efforts in spring training, on the road and at Fenway Park. Cannisters of hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes are readily available in the JetBlue Park clubhouse.
A Clorox 360 system, which involves an electrostatic sprayer that casts a fine mist over all exposed areas in a clubhouse to contain pathogens, is being used every other day at JetBlue Park, an increase from only a couple times a week. The training and strength-and-conditioning staff also has upped its usage of the system to keep its equipment as germ-free as possible.
Both at home and on the road, the staff, players and coaches place themselves in a petri dish-like environment friendly to germs and bugs. Close contact in training rooms, dressing areas, showers, bathrooms, plus bus rides and plane trips, makes it common once or twice a season for a cold, flu or stomach bug to sweep through a team.
Late in 2017 spring training, a flu ran through the Red Sox team, with the illness lingering through the beginning of the regular season. More than half a dozen players and coaches missed time, some had to be quarantined and Robbie Ross Jr. began the season on the disabled list.
In Detroit, trainers walked around in masks as they tried to maintain the readiness of the players without getting sick themselves. The Twins, the next team to play against the Tigers in Detroit, requested the visitors’ clubhouse be fumigated before their arrival, and the Red Sox clubhouse at Fenway Park required a deep clean as well.
The sickness received enough attention that upon arrival in Fenway Park, Orioles then-manager Buck Showalter grumbled about its notoriety.
“The Red Sox are the only ones who have it, huh? I didn’t know that,” Showalter said. “Nobody else has it? The whole league’s got it. It seems to get broadcast more here.”
Roenicke was asked if Dr. Ronan spoke about another dugout habit — spitting.
“No, I wish he would have,” said Roenicke with a grimace. “I still can’t get used to that. You go to sit down in the seat and you put your feet down and you go 'ew.”
Michael Silverman can be reached at email@example.com.