LAKELAND, Fla. — Ron Gardenhire was doing the grunt work many managers face at the midway point of Spring Training. He was making out lineups for games a week ahead of time, balancing playing time and getting ready for roster moves. Then came the news.
“I'd written schedules and game lineups out and everything trying to make sure I get everybody at-bats and setting up our pitching,” Gardenhire told WXYT-FM’s Jamie and Stoney Show on Wednesday morning. “We'd done that for seven days ahead. So all of a sudden, all this stuff that I’ve been sitting down there writing out and going over with Lloyd and a couple of my coaches, getting the players in the games and getting their at-bats, all of a sudden it just shut down.
“There's no precedent. It just happened, and you just sit there and look back and go, ‘Wow.’”
Now, Gardenhire is at his offseason home in Fort Myers, Fla., having departed Tigers camp a couple days after Spring Training was suspended. He’s keeping up to date with the Tigers’ situation through general manager Al Avila. But he’s also taking time to connect with family at a time when he’s normally busy piecing together an Opening Day roster.
“I’m not a beach guy, but I’ve been to the beach twice with the grandbabies, watching them run,” Gardenhire said.
In an unprecedented situation, the closest experience to which Gardenhire can compare is 2001, when baseball pushed back its schedule for a week following the Sept. 11 attacks. At the time, Gardenhire was a coach on Tom Kelly’s staff with the Twins, who were in Detroit for a series against the Tigers at Comerica Park at the time.
This delay will be longer, but the suddenness of the change, and the perspective it brought, was similar for him.
“All of a sudden, baseball just stopped,” Gardenhire said. “And that's kind of what we've done here. All of a sudden we finish a Spring Training game and baseball's done. How long remains to be seen. That's the only thing you really had to look back at.
“It's one of those things where we just talked to the players [in their meeting] and said, you know, this is what baseball wants. It's not what I want. It's not what Al wants. Major League Baseball set this up and they're doing the best they can with the Players Association to make sure we do all the right things.”
Gardenhire did not stay back for the Tigers’ informal workouts at the Tigertown complex this week, though a couple of his coaches remain in case any player needs help or advice. As far as Gardenhire is concerned, the best approach is to treat it like another set of offseason workouts and find a maintenance routine while keeping perspective in a trying time.
“They know how to take care of themselves,” Gardenhire said. “They know there's places they can go to in their hometowns and get their workouts in if it's allowed. But more important than anything in the world is to just stay with their families, make sure you stay healthy and all those things, and baseball will take care of itself as we move forward.”
That’s what Gardenhire is doing. And when asked what shows he might be binge-watching while staying home, he cited his morning game shows.
“Let's Make a Deal, Price is Right, and then I actually move off of my couch,” he said.