BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
There are some stories that the words paint the picture of what things are like.
Then there are others where the photos tell the story.
This will be one of those articles that the photos you’re going to look at will make my job much easier.
The cliche’ that a picture is worth a 1,000 words definitely describes the message I’m conveying.
During the past year, COVID-19 has turned our world upside down.
The amount of fatalities has clearly changed all of our lives as we were hit with an enemy that we didn’t know.
For those that had COVID-19, we still don’t know what long term health issues they’ll have to deal with.
COVID-19 prevented me from seeing my Mother during the last year of her life and thankfully, My Wife and I saw her before she passed away a couple days after Thanksgiving.
COVID-19 claimed the most important person in my life when My Aunt Judy, the older sister I never had, died in late January.
We had to fly to Detroit and attend the funeral I had hoped would be years away!
In the past year, covering sports has been something that I never visualized when I broke into the industry in 1979.
Communicating with Coaches, Players and Executives through Zoom Calls have been the new norm in an industry that was unthinkable years ago.
My first Zoom experience began with the Miami Marlins then continued with the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Owls and Florida Panthers.
This doesn’t even count the numerous broadcasts and networking events that took place.
The in person events would eventually come back as I would cover FAU, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Races at Sebring International Raceway, the Florida Panthers and Miami Marlins.
The Press Boxes would be limited to 30-50% capacity and each member was properly social distanced.
But with those games came the Pre-Screening COVID-19 Questions and the Temperature Checks, in addition to the memos about wearing a Mask, etc…
Some places had abbreviated media meals, others didn’t.
I brought meal replacement shakes and bars so I could keep on my lifestyle calorie count program.
Of the four organizations I mentioned, I have to admit that coming to Marlins games has been the most gratifying since I got to know many of my colleagues through the Zoom Calls.
Indeed, they’re Real People!
Prior to this week, the last game that I saw occurred was on Thursday, May 27th against the Philadelphia Phillies. I had to go through all the protocols listed on the confirmation that involved the compliance questionnaire, the temperature check, etc… We were allowed to show up three hours prior to game time.
When I returned to loanDepotPark (Marlins Park) on Wednesday, June 9th, things were much different on the confirmation. By this time, I was fully vaccinated but the form said that I could come four hours in advance and there was no compliance questionnaire that had to be filled out.
There was no temperature check.
I was allowed field access but we had to be social distanced.
The mask requirement is in place and I still wear mine the majority of the time when I am near people.
When I’m alone and at my desk, I do take it off. There are lots of other colleagues that don’t wear their masks when they’re completely social distanced.
When I was on the field for the first time on Thursday, June 10th, it finally sunk into me that we might be turning the corner with COVID-19.
The site of players taking batting practice, talking to my colleagues on the field and chatting with players, coaches and Manager Don Mattingly seemed surreal.
Yes, these are Real People?
They are the ones that we’ve grown accustomed to talking via Zoom. It was great to shake their hands, give fist bumps and that occasional hug.
Some of the players look smaller in person than they are behind the desk and on camera while others are bigger.
Yes, once again, they’re Real People!
During the season, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Florida Panthers fed us and we had to take our meals to our work stations. There would be post-game Zoom Availability.
As for the Marlins, the only food the media could get is either to bring your own or go to the concession stands.
There was plenty of bottled water and coffee available so we could stay hydrated.
Once again, I just brought my shakes and meal replacement bar.
Our latest memo said that beginning June 22nd, Media Dining will be available in the Press Box at a cost of $12/person and we are asked to consume the food at our work station.
Time will tell whether I eat the meals or stay on my program with cost not factoring into this decision. During the latter part of the season when the Panthers offered them complimentary, I stayed on my program.
But when you put things in perspective, this is how far we’ve come.
However, the underlying aspects of COVID-19 is whether we’ll see a full Press Box again and most of all will we be able to interview players at press conferences or in the locker room.
From the Marlins standpoint, Manager, Coach, Player, Personnel and Executive requests in 2021 will take place using Zoom. Additional interview requests come through the Marlins Communications Department.
The pre and post-game Media Availability remains the same as it has the past 12 months.
But we’ve indeed come along way.
The only questions that will ultimately come into play is whether visiting announcers eventually travel with the teams or stay remote since it could be a cost cutting measure from their respective organizations because announcers have acclimated to the conditions thrust upon them.
Also, some of these decisions are made with the respective leagues.
I have to admit, that I’ve enjoyed the reduced Press Box capacity because there is more space for me to get work done.
I’ll be anxious to see what the other teams that I cover have in store and whether the masks will ever completely go away.
All I know that it was great being on the field again and something that I wondered during the darkest days of this deadly virus would ever take place.
And once again, it’s Great To See Real People!
Scott Morganroth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth.
You can see his broadcasts by subscribing to The South Florida Tribune You Tube Channel for Free.