The third base coach is a vector

Here’s one sentiment I’ve seen pass through my Twitter feed in a few different iterations over the last few days:

It’s funny because it could be true, except more’s going to change than personal habits. National emergencies have a way of changing what we consider normal. If I want to sound ancient, I can say that I remember going to airport gates without a ticket.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and most visible expert of the federal coronavirus response, is attempting to use the crisis as a way to reexamine the whole idea of shaking hands. His comments made in a Wall Street Journal podcast and elsewhere circulated Thursday morning:

“I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you,” Fauci, a key member of the White House task force, said during a Wall Street Journal podcast. “Not only would it be good to prevent coronavirus disease — it probably would decrease instances of influenza dramatically in this country.” […]

“When you gradually come back, you don’t jump into it with both feet,” Fauci explained. “You say, what are the things you could still do and still approach normal? One of them is absolute compulsive hand-washing. The other is you don’t ever shake anybody’s hands.”

I pride myself on a good handshake and haven’t yet found a satisfying replacement in situations that call for one. On the other hand, there’s not much worse than a suspect handshake, so I’m fine with advancing to a more suitable solution, even if we have to deal with an awkward transitional period.

Baseball is examining its own customs in the hopes of shaping a baseball-like product for mass consumption as soon as possible. The Arizona Plan, which Jeff Passan laid out at ESPN a couple of days ago, seems naive at best and “Human Zoo” at worst, but the steps taken to increase social distancing are a little bit adorable:

  • Implementing an electronic strike zone to allow the plate umpire to maintain sufficient distance from the catcher and batter
  • No mound visits from the catcher or pitching coach
  • Players sitting in the empty stands 6 feet apart — the recommended social-distancing space — instead of in a dugout

I suppose that’s a start. But the catcher and batter are still on top of each other, as are baserunners with first basemen and other fielders they encounter. The ball is still handled by a lot of different people, including a pitcher who has a habit of going to his mouth and wiping his face. And there’s still the matter of so much spitting.

Still, the combination of stories made me wonder how interaction among teammates and team personnel is going to change.

At least since Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko parted ways, there aren’t a whole lot of handshake enthusiasts on the White Sox. There are a lot of daps, high-fives and low-fives, forearm bashes, sometimes spontaneous, sometimes choreographed. When there is hand-to-hand contact, most of the involved are wearing gloves, or are at least in a spot that could have a handwashing basin/sanitizer nearby.

But watching various home run celebrations from current members of the team, one guy stands out as uniquely vulnerable in the current setup.

There’s Nick Capra, out in international waters. He’s extending an ungloved hand to the victor to encourage contact, then showing it for all to see. Then he’s going to use that hand to touch his face in a series of signs to the next hitter and/or runner. Good luck trying to implement social distancing on his kind, because the next third base coach who actually adheres to lines on the ground will be the first.

This is all tongue-in-cheek. In reality, Capra and his colleagues shouldn’t be hard to corral. Third base coaches have already adjusted by wearing helmets, so adding team-issued masks to that list won’t be a stretch. Maybe he’ll be wearing gloves the next time we see him. Maybe he’ll actually be standing in the designated coaching box, running all his sign sequences from the shoulders down and giving approving nods to players who pass.

Or maybe third base coaches will be temporarily restricted in order to cut down on essential employees, and every home run celebration will look like Willy Garcia’s first:

One way to put a new spin on an old game is to take notes of all the things public health experts are telling you not to do, and then wait for baseball to return and see if you can spot what else is missing. This little literal corner of the game will likely have to learn a new way to live, and it suggests a lot of such little changes in store elsewhere. I’m guessing contact-based celebrations will be easier to kick than nicotine, but if the emphasis on hazardous moisture emissions gets players to kick their chewing tobacco habits, hey, maybe all sorts of public health goals are attainable.

(Photo by Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire)

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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when i want to sound old i tell people i am old enough that i have smoked cigarettes while taking an airplane flight.


And I’m old enough to remember when the stewardess passed out four pack samples of cigarettes.


Yes, I remember getting samples on the street


Don’t forget standing up in the back seat of the car while leaning over the front seat, hurtling down the expressway at like 75 mph.


We’ll all start bowing. The Japanese are always ahead of everybody.




I never liked to shake hands. And for some weird reason, as a woman , people want to give you a simulated kiss on the cheek. Why? Stop it. I say good morning, that should be enough.
And in sports, they really like to spit. How would the league change that habit from the players.


Make the players wear a mask. I can’t imagine anybody wanting to wear their own spit.


Outlaw shell-on seeds. 50 game ban for bubble gum related dugout pranks. Spent pitchers get the hook with a literal, Apollo-style hook. This doesn’t have to be all bad.


I never used to think about how disgusting a baseball is. Kids chasing after foul balls covered with spit. When fans do come back, that may still be something to consider. The extended screens will come in handy