Getting Detroit Tigers the COVID-19 vaccine is more complicated than it sounds
It was so easy.
I went to Ford Field last week, stood in line for a few minutes and got the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in my left arm. The process was quick and efficient. The whole thing took about 30 minutes.
The next day, I had minimal symptoms: It felt like I had a mild allergy attack.
But that was hardly a bother compared to the benefits — man, I just want life to return to normal.
Anyone who lives or works in the city of Detroit is eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine, as are city residents 16 and older. And President Joe Bidden announced Monday that 90% of Americans will be eligible for the vaccine by April 19.
Which brings up an interesting question. When will the Detroit Tigers get it?
“We do have some plans in the works to make it available to staff and players as soon as possible,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said Monday morning. “I can't go into much further details.”
For the players, there is a practical benefit to get vaccinated. It will allow things to start to return to normal on the bench and in the clubhouse.
Major League Baseball sent a memo to teams on Monday that announced protocols will be relaxed once at least 85% of their tier 1 players and staff are fully vaccinated, with a two-week delay after the final vaccination. When that happens, players can travel with their families, according to USA Today. Also, they can play cards, move around on planes and buses, use whirlpools and saunas in the clubhouse, eat in restaurants and bars, and will no longer be required to wear a mask on the bench or in the bullpen.
“We're all hoping to get past this,” Hinch said. “Me personally, I think the vaccine is the only way to get past it. And I hope everybody considers it in and makes a personal decision for the best interest of their family.”
At this time, when getting the vaccine is a polarizing issue, Hinch tried not to offend anyone while still expressing his opinion. “Everybody is making a personal decision,” Hinch said. “I wouldn't sit here and tell anybody what to do. But I certainly hope we can all return to normal life and that, for me is going to be taking the vaccine.”
Me? I’m not so politically correct.
Come on people, get the dang vaccine.
A seventh-inning stretch?
It feels like we are coming out of this.
But this pandemic is not done. Nor is the risk.
When the Tigers open their season on Thursday, they will be without pitching coach Chris Fetter, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday night.
"I'm devastated for him," Hinch said. "No. 1, we're going to navigate through this as a group and for him. But it is horrible for him. He's worked tirelessly to get this opportunity and something like this pops up.
"And he's done nothing wrong."
The Tigers will also be without pitcher Spencer Turnbull, who will start the season on the non-baseball injured list and has been quarantined away from the team because of COVID-19 protocols. The team has not said whether he has the disease.
"We've had a relatively quiet camp when it comes to COVID compared to what it could have been," Hinch said. "It’s a lot of people logging a lot hours to make sure we can come to practice every day and get these games in."
When the Tigers open their season on Thursday, 8,200 fans will be allowed into Comerica Park.
But fans must to wear masks and social distance at the game.
Because this isn’t over.
A new 'hot shot'
Getting the Tigers vaccinated is not as easy as it sounds.
It’s a complicated, logistical exercise.
“We have our doctors down here with us during spring training and the organization is working hard to set that up relatively quickly,” Hinch said. “It's a little bit of a moving target when it comes to, we're traveling back from here. We have Opening Day. We have a couple of days off.”
There is another issue.
It will be difficult to vaccinate an entire team at once during the season because there is the potential that multiple players could end up feeling, well, icky for a day or so.
I felt fine after the shot but my wife felt, yes here it comes again, just a little icky.
That’s hardly a bother for normal people, but it’s complicated for professional athletes.
If the Tigers get a two-shot vaccine, that means they would need another shot in three weeks.
I mean, how are they gonna do it? If they go alphabetical — and just do the Cs – the Tigers could lose half their infield at the same time: third baseman Jeimer Candelario, shortstop Willi Castro, first baseman/designated hitter Miguel Cabrera and utility man Harold Castro.
In the grand scheme of things, a baseball player feeling icky for a day is no big deal.
But it does matter when you are trying to manage a roster.
“It's very complicated,” Hinch said. “Trying to get the entire team to safely get through the season is something our doctors have been focused on since Day 1.”
There is a big-picture benefit to the Tigers getting vaccinated. This could be a great public service opportunity, if they would turn this into a photo opportunity. If people could see someone like Cabrera or Matthew Boyd or even Hinch get the shot, maybe they would be more willing to get it. To trust it.
It’s not politics. It’s science.
And right now, it’s also sports.