“Guys are upbeat,” Scott Oberg said of the atmosphere at Coors Field Sumer Camp. “It’s fun to be back. This is definitely our second extended family, so to speak.”
Today, Oberg met with media via Zoom to answer questions about MLB’s COVID-19 protocols as well as how he sees the Rockies taking advantage of a 60-game season.
Training and deciding to play during a pandemic
Oberg spent the time between spring training and summer camp at his home in Gloucester County, New Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia. To protect his health, Oberg seldom left his house, instead working out at home by using a throwing net and some weight room equipment as well as a mound in his backyard.
But he was grateful for the extra time he got to spend with his family, a luxury he generally does not have during the season. “We really cherished it,” he said.
Given that he had blood clots last year and has managed several autoimmune diseases since college, Oberg is in a high-risk category.
Before deciding to play, Oberg reached out to his rheumatologist in Philadelphia, and the discussion put Oberg’s mind at ease. “For me,” Oberg said, “it’s just a matter of sticking with the protocols that are in place, holding myself to a higher standard — always wear my mask, no matter where I’m at and not try to take too many chances. I’m always washing my hands, hitting the dispensers we have around the clubhouse, just always do as many of the little things as I possibly can to keep myself as healthy as possible.”
Oberg was confident that the Rockies training staff would keep him and other players healthy. “Once I started seeing some of the protocols early on, I was actually pretty encouraged,” he said. “It’s also dependent on myself to make the right decisions away from the ballpark.”
The Rockies and the safety protocols
Playing baseball during a pandemic requires some adjustments.
“Some of the protocols, we’re still getting used to,” Oberg said, but he stressed the the team was eager to play baseball. “We’re excited to get going.”
“Guys are definitely taking it [COVID-19] seriously,” Oberg said. “It was encouraging to hear a lot of guys talking in meetings yesterday about taking it seriously, especially away from the ballpark.”
The Rockies are keenly aware that health will be key to winning in 2020.
“We have to understand that this thing is bigger than all of us, and if it’s a little bit of an inconvenience for me to wear a mask to protect somebody else, I’m going to do that. We have to remove ourselves from the equation a little bit,” Oberg said, “take our egos out of it, make sure that we’re going the right thing not only for our teammates but for our community members as well.”
The Rockies continue to adjust to the new safety protocols.
“It’s going to be a little bit strange,” Oberg said. “As pitchers, we have to carry our own baseballs everywhere. We have our own rosin bag. Some of those community-sharing type of things that we normally have are no longer there for this year, so I think it’s consciously being aware of those little things along the way.”
Currently, players across the league are weighing whether to play in 2020. For now, according to Oberg, guys are “all in.” But they also support Ian Desmond’s decision to sit out. “We certainly respect and understand, and we’re behind Ian Desmond one hundred percent with the decision that he’s made,” Oberg said. However, he does not rule out other players opting out as the season unfolds.
The Rockies are eager to take the field.
“Guys are really looking forward to the season, really looking forward to getting this thing going, getting back to some normalcy in the sense that we’re together as a team,” Oberg said.
The Rockies’ pitching was ranked 29th in 2019, but Oberg remains positive, seeing its experience with pitching at Coors and additions such as Tim Collins as benefits, especially in a shortened season.
“The bulllpen’s always usually pretty tight to begin with — it’s a close-knit group — and I foresee that continuing as it has in the past,” Oberg said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys who’ve been around a little bit. I think that they certainly understand the urgency coming out of the gate, knowing that the starters aren’t going to be able to get their full pitching at the beginning.”
Oberg thinks rebooting the 2020 season at Coors Field will be a benefit for the Rockies.
“It will be a unique situation in the sense that we’ll finally get to practice in our home ballpark in our home altitude, really for the first time,” Oberg said.
Generally after the Rockies leave spring training, they play a week’s worth of road games before arriving at Coors Field. “We kind of get hit in the face by the altitude a little bit when we come home,” Oberg said. “Having these three weeks [of Summer Camp] is actually going to be really beneficial for our pitchers to hone in on their breaking pitches. It will definitely help our hitters get readjusted to our ballpark. But I certainly think it will give us a little bit of an advantage going forward.”
Oberg also sees the shortened season as giving the Rockies an advantage.
“You never really know what’s going to happen in a 60-game season,” he said. We’ve historically started off pretty hot and hopefully we can continue that and put ourselves in a position to be in contention for a division title and going into a playoff scenario.”