PHILADELPHIA -- Bryce Harper was just beginning to take batting practice Friday morning in South Philadelphia, taking another swing toward an uncertain season, when news spread from 2,700 miles away that could make baseball's return even more challenging.
Mike Trout, a contemporary to Harper as one of the game's superstar players, told reporters in Los Angeles that he still did not feel comfortable about playing during the coronavirus pandemic. His wife, Jessica, is pregnant and the baby is due in August.
Trout, baseball's top player and the pride of Millville, N.J., is conflicted about the season and is "playing it by ear."
"I think the biggest thing is this is our first child. I have to be there," Trout said. "If I test positive, I can't see the baby for 14 days. We would be upset. I have to keep Jess safe. I have to keep the baby safe. I try to talk to my wife every night about this. I know I'm risking myself. I could meet somebody and get this virus. That's the last thing I want to do."
The Phillies began summer camp Friday with strict social-distancing protocols in place, but it is still expected that the team -- and others throughout Major League Baseball -- will lose players this season for stretches because of the coronavirus. The Phillies followed similar guidelines at their spring-training facility in Clearwater, Fla., but still had an outbreak last month and placed four players this week on the COVID-19 Injured list.
An in-season positive test would likely require a player to miss three weeks of the season. Replacing the infected players will be difficult, but expanded player pools could keep a team afloat. But could a season -- one that tested fans' spirits with an ugly labor battle and already carries legitimacy questions because it is only 60 games -- survive without its brightest stars?
If Trout has concerns, surely others do, too. And if the game's best player sits out, would others follow? Harper flew to Philadelphia this week with his 10-month-old son, Krew, and wife, Kayla, who announced last month that she's pregnant with the couple's second child.
Harper saw Trout's comments Friday after leaving the batting cage and Trout's uncertainty matched how Harper felt as he prepared to report this week to camp.
"I was definitely in that boat as well before I came here thinking to myself, 'Should we go? Is this something that's going to happen? Is something bad going to happen to my pregnant wife or my child or anybody else in the clubhouse or even our media or somebody else?' " Harper said.
"This is just something that we all have to get used to a little bit and try to do the best we can with the parameters that we do have, if that is wearing masks or staying socially distanced apart, we just have to do that to the best of our ability. Hopefully we can get through this season."