East Texas players at home instead of at ballparks

East Texas players at home instead of at ballparks

LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) -Twenty-nine ballparks set empty Thursday. Half of them were supposed to be full with fans ready to take in opening day festivities.

Two weeks ago the season was put on hold over concerns of the growing COVID-19 pandemic. MLB Commissioner Rob Medford is hopeful that teams can get back to work in May with a possible start date in June.

Until then, players are back home working out and getting ready for the call.

Hudson native, Riley Smith had just spent the early part of spring training working his way up to the Arizona Diamondbacks 40-man roster. He will start this season in Reno with the clubs Triple-A affiliate with hopes of ending the season in Phoenix.

“It lights a fire under you,” Smith said. “They appreciate what I have been doing so I keep busting my butt and getting after it..”

Smith is starting to do a simulated 5-day rotation workout. He admits it is a little strange.

“I haven’t been home in four or five years and seen green trees,” Smith said. “I always come home in the fall and the leaves are falling off. It is weird being here. I am just getting ready to go back into a new spring training. As good as it is to be home, I am not supposed to be here right now. Four months is a long time off from baseball. I was three-four weeks from being in a real game this year and making my debut this year.”

Smith trains daily with Grayson Rodriguez. The former Central-Heights standout is in limbo. He knows he is good with his Baltimore contract. What he doesn’t know is where he will be playing. When camp closed the team had yet to decide where their former first-round pick was set to debut this year.

Rodriguez is at home, with a little-league size field in his back yard, training and staying in shape.

“Our pitching coaches emailed us an eight week throwing program,” Rodriguez said. “You see that eight week mark and think is that really how long it is going to take. That is just at the minimum.”

Rodriguez is used to having APEC gym in Tyler at his disposal but now he is relying on the country landscape of Nacogdoches County.

“All of this is a big natural workout for me,” Rodriguez said. “It is nice. The gym is supplying us with workouts on our phones but it is nice also to get outdoors.”

The two know baseball will return. Right now they wait it out knowing this will be a season they never forget, no matter where they end up.

“We are embedded in sports history," Rodriguez said. "It is a sad day in the baseball world,” Rodriguez said. “It is time for something live to happen. It is different. I miss it. The smell of the stadium and the crowd. That is our office space.”

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