Kyle McCrady was one of the many minor league baseball people who had their jobs essentially eliminated this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But now, McCrady is in an especially small club. He’s working the Seattle Mariners Taxi Squad games at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, both helping the Mariners youngsters by simply being there, while also getting some work and the potential for a Big League call-up.
“It was just a process over time,” McCrady said. “It must’ve been some time during their modified spring training they were having. I got a call saying, ‘Are you ready and willing to work?’ and I said, ‘Yeah.’ They were like, ‘Okay. Just be by your phone, because anything can really happen, just because of the situation that’s going on.’”
The situation in Tacoma is an interesting one.
With no minor league games, players had to find ways to stay active. The Major League season is scheduled to run through the end of the September, so it would make sense that the Taxi Squad would work out until then, as well.
Some joined the Constellation Energy League, which was quickly thrown together by the independent league team Sugarland Skeeters to provide some baseball. It welcomed fans back to the stands, during a pandemic.
Most of those players were guys who didn’t make the 60-player special rosters. But for the guys who made that cut, they get to go to a chosen site and play intrasquad games. Exciting, right?
For Mariners fans, the Tacoma scrimmages feature players like Jared Kelenic, Logan Gilbert, Emerson Hancock, Jake Fraley, Cal Raleigh and more. The future of the organization is playing each other in Tacoma, and McCrady is there to administer.
During actual Spring Training earlier this year, McCrady was on a list of Minor League umpires who could possible get a call-up.
That list was 31 guys long. There were 23 guys ahead of McCrady. That’s still the case. He’s at the mezzanine level between AAA and the MLB right now, which is why he’s working in Tacoma.
“I’m thankful and I’m grateful,” McCrady said. “Yeah, it’s exciting. It can be overwhelming at times because it’s just different, you know?”
As one might expect, it’s a very tightly-controlled situation in Tacoma.
Fans aren’t allowed, obviously, and players and umpires are largely kept sequestered when not at the ballpark.
To McCrady’s knowledge, everyone involved has entirely bought into being safe. They better, or they’d be going home early. Each umpire got a packet with a list of rules and procedures. Nobody is scoffing at it.
“We’re responsible,” McCrady said. “Obviously, it’s a serious situation. Nobody wants to be responsible for doing something irresponsible and getting sick and getting other people sick. You carry that weight with you, too.”
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