Tampa Bay Rays welcome more than a dozen players, manager to first workout at home field

As Major League Baseball begins its most crucial week yet in hopes of salvaging a 2020 season, a quiet but not insignificant gathering took place in Florida.

Some 14 Tampa Bay Rays entered Tropicana Field in pairs, stayed away from the batting cage and weight room, but nonetheless got in a workout Monday afternoon under the watchful eye of their manager — perhaps the most formal gathering of big leaguers in their home ballpark since the COVID-19 pandemic cast the season in doubt.

The group included All-Star outfielder Austin Meadows, shortstop Willy Adames and new outfielder Manuel Margot, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The players had their temperatures checked upon entry and wore masks into the stadium, but could remove them during their workout. The team improvised a number of free weights and plyometric stations for the players, who are among a group that remained in the Tampa area after their spring training site in Port Charlotte, Florida was closed more than two months ago.

It’s good to be back. pic.twitter.com/7jx0HTN8na

“It felt good, but it was still odd,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said on a Zoom call with Tampa media, per The Athletic. “I didn’t go up and handshake anybody or give anybody a hug. When you haven’t seen someone in that long, you’re probably doing that, so that was odd.

"But we certainly respect the situation and what’s at stake. We’re going to do what we’re asked. It was a step in the right direction and it was good to see smiling faces.”

WILL YOUR MLB TEAM PLAY AT HOME?: A team-by-team look

Tuesday, MLB is expected to extend an economic proposal to players in hopes of beginning the season in early July. The sides have already reviewed a 67-page document regarding health protocols, with players expected to respond to that soon.

With a second spring training expected to commence by mid-June, some teams have opened spring facilities and home ballparks, subject to social-distancing guidelines in their areas. While an agreement on player pay and health may not be hammered out immediately, players and teams must ramp up in earnest with the anticipation that they’ll need to be ready soon.

“If those dates are actuality,” Cash told reporters, “e probably need to get going a little bit and starting some more aggressive type of routine. I think this was a really good start for a first day and a first week."

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These Duke doctors are working with NFL, Big 12 to mitigate coronavirus spread among teams

In the more than two months since the suspension of all NBA activities ushered in an unprecedented era without sports, professional leagues and the NCAA have turned from preventative health measures to evaluating when, where and under what conditions teams could safely return to normal activities without increasing the possibility of an outbreak of the coronavirus strain.

The question is uniquely pressing for teams in the NFL, which may have had the luxury of thus far avoiding any major, coronavirus-caused disruptions to the league's annual schedule — the April draft was held with teams working remotely — but must now create guidelines for juggling larger rosters and the physicality of practice along with the renewed daily interaction between players, coaches, trainers and support staffers.

To help steer the response to COVID-19 and provide recommendations for transitioning back into traditional team activities, the NFL has turned to Infection Control Education for Major Sports, or ICS,an independent organization run by two Duke University infectious-disease doctors, Deverick Anderson and Christopher Hostler.

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury, left and shown in 2019, may be able to hold a practice with Kyler Murray and other players in the coming weeks. (Photo: Matt York, AP)

As teams begin to ease into drastically altered preparations for the upcoming season, ICS has been the league's go-to source for how to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus through testing, disinfection and environmental distancing.

"Sports teams and leagues have an acute need at this moment, and that is specifically related to COVID and how to reopen," Anderson told USA TODAY Sports. "We believe that these teams can benefit from this type of systematic implementation of best practices moving forward."

The NFL faced a similar situation seven years ago, when a series of potentially fatal staph infections, known as MRSA, spread through the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' locker room. One of the players infected, kicker Lawrence Tynes, cited unsanitary conditions in later suing the franchise, and settled for an undisclosed sum.

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To help steer the league's response to MRSA, the NFL leaned on the expertise of the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network, or DICON, which had been providing the league with educational newsletters related to stemming the spread of infectious diseases. After pitching the NFL on installing systemic, league-wide guidelines, DICON entered into a contract as the league's infection-prevention experts.

Anderson and Hostler, who consulted extensively with the NFL as part of DICON's team of experts, formed ICS  when the coronavirus started to spread in the U.S. as a separate and distinct entity as inquiries from major sports leagues increased with the rise of COVID-19.

The company is under contract with the NFL and the Big 12 Conference, and has held conversations with at least eight other professional or college leagues, including Major League Baseball, which is considering a shortened regular season beginning in July.

"They have been part of committees and working groups that are looking really at every aspect of our operation and our response to COVID, from advising us on how we conducted the draft to how we were able to reopen clubs’ facilities to now helping us think about player safety," said Allen Sills, the NFL's Chief Medical Officer.

Through conference calls with NFL owners and with three-ring binders distributed to every team, ICS has provided "really basic but really important infection-prevention strategies," Anderson said. "In some ways, a lot of these broad strokes are applicable in other parts of society as well."

At about 360 pages, the binder includes checklists, sample policies and an appendix of additional resource materials, including posters and specific documents from the Centers for Disease Control. Anderson called the more global advice provided by ICS the "Swiss-cheese model," in that no suggestion is perfect; all have holes. If you put them together, however, the holes may match up — much like stacked slices of Swiss cheese.

The steps include constant handwashing teamed with barrier precautions as a way to provide safe separation inside locker rooms and broader football facilities. NFL teams should maximize the use of face masks even as there may be times when masks may not be feasible, such as during aerobic exercise. ICS has also provided the NFL with recommendations on environmental disinfection.

"There’s effort that has to go into changing the way that we interact with people," Anderson said. "Social-distancing, redoing a lot of the environmental spacing. That’s certainly going to be true on the training side. Again, not different from other parts of society but certainly an area of emphasis in an athletic setting."

One risk that NFL teams must confront is maintaining those distancing efforts at practice, during typical moments as mundane as huddling or route running. At some point, teams will need to perform an act that has been nearly eliminated from everyday life: passing an object from one person to another — in this case, a football — without the interception of a disinfecting wipe.

Splitting players into smaller groups at practice, likely by position, and then layering on additional activities is a way to ease into traditional team events, Anderson said.

"It is clear and I think it is appropriate that most groups we’re engaged with are really trying to move in small, short steps," said Anderson. "I think that methodical approach, where you then have some time to see how things are going, is definitely a good way to do it. If you employ that strategy, it’s true that you can’t speed up the process. You have to take it one step at a time."

The biggest step will be in formulating a testing model for identifying individuals with COVID-19 and minimizing the downstream impact of a positive test. Testing has been a primary topic of conversation between ICS and the Big 12, with the conference quizzing ICS on who, when and how frequently to test athletes set to arrive back on campus early next month.

"We had a long list of questions we presented to ICS — and they’ve been going through providing us answers," said Big 12 executive associate commissioner Ed Stewart. "It’s an evolving list. I think they would probably like for us to stop reaching out to them so they can answer the questions we’ve already given them. But we keep coming up with new questions for them."

As of now, testing for the coronavirus is "imperfect," Anderson said, and ICS and others are trying to find tests that eliminate the sort of sensitivity that could lead to false negatives. Under optimal testing conditions, ICS has advised to test frequently to find the person on the verge of having symptoms before they subsequently expose teammates or coaches to COVID-19. Even then, it's unlikely that casting such a net  would catch everyone that comes through.

"A key message we relay just about any time we get the opportunity to is, listen, there is no such thing as a zero-risk scenario. We’re going to do our best, but infections with this virus are going to happen whether or not sports occur," said Anderson. "So if we all kind of accept that’s the baseline that we’re living in, we then have to say it certainly has to be recognized that sports activities by their very nature will increase that risk."

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Bull Durham director Ron Shelton had some Earl Weaver in him as a Little League coach

Ron Shelton has endured for decades in Hollywood but lasted only a few years as a Little League coach.

“I’d go out and argue like Earl Weaver and you’re not supposed to do that,” says Shelton, the creator of such sports cinematic classics as “Bull Durham,” “Tin Cup” and “White Men Can’t Jump.” “I was always getting banned, and I was getting on the parents for spoiling their kids.

“‘Why isn’t my kid pitching?’ ’Cause he’s terrible! That’s why!’”

Shelton, whose son is now 15, recalls a moment when a player on his team asked him, “Am I getting better?”

“‘No,” was his answer.

“The parents came up to me the next day and said, ‘You really said my kid wasn’t getting better?’” Shelton tells USA TODAY Sports. “I said, ‘Yes, I told him the truth.’ They said, ‘Well, thank you for telling him the truth. We don’t know how.’ It was like, ‘Well, you got a problem.’ ”

Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon in "Bull Durham" (Photo: GREG GORMAN, ORION)

Shelton compares his coaching style to that of Morris Buttermaker, the crotchety coach played by Walter Matthau in “The Bad News Bears.” Shelton doesn’t necessarily like happy endings. The movies he writes and directs are built around character development and cut deeper than victory and defeat.

“I just don’t like sports movies where somebody hits a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth to win,” he says.

In “Bull Durham,” Kevin Costner plays Crash Davis, an aging catcher who has been to the major leagues but is sent down to Class A ball to mentor a young, reckless and supremely talented pitcher, Nuke LaLoosh (played by Tim Robbins). The movie is a romantic comedy, as Davis and LaLoosh vie for the attention of Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon), but is modeled on a Western.

“I loved Westerns growing up, in this sense: Crash is a gunslinger; he goes from town to town wherever he’s hired, doing highly skilled and highly professional work for very little recognition, except for whatever they’re paying him,” Shelton says. “And, like the classic Western gunslinger, he has no past, he has no background. Now, his entire past is 21 days in the major leagues but you don’t know where he grew up. Did he go to college? Did he go to J.C.? Did he sign out of high school? Who were his parents? Was his dad a working-class guy? There’s not one thing. But with Nuke, his dad’s there taking pictures of him and going to Annie’s house with him. So you can fill in the backgrounds of these characters, and in Crash’s case, he’s kind of mysterious.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has paralyzed the country, and people are home watching movies but not live sports, Shelton has found himself doing a lot of interviews about “Bull Durham.” He shared some of his other favorite sports movies with USA TODAY:

“The Hustler” (1961): “The pool-shooting movie with Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason and George C. Scott. Three powerhouses. It’s Minnesota Fats and Fast Eddie, pool hustlers. It’s the greatest movie about competition and gambling and the human psyche. It’s a black and white movie. It’s not anything your kid couldn’t watch, but your kid would be bored because it’s about grown-up issues of mortality and risk and reward. But it’s really, really well done.”

“This Sporting Life” (1963): “Directed by Lindsay Anderson, starring Richard Harris as a kind of rugby player, also kind of a drinking, brawling blue-collar guy.”

“The Bad News Bears” (1976): “Having coached Little League, I think the original is pretty good. I coached my kid for 2 or 3 years and I kept getting kicked out of the game for swearing … So I ended up being a lot like Matthau, I’m afraid. I had to retire from coaching Little League but I’ve always liked that movie.”

"Sugar" (2008): “A Latin player in the minor leagues, bouncing around, the whole cultural, social adjustment.”

Shelton was asked if he had seen “The Perfect Game,” the 2010 film detailing the rise of an underdog team from Monterrey, Mexico, to the 1957 Little League World Series.

“I haven’t seen that one, though I was in Mexico, in Monterrey a number of years ago, because I want to do a Latin baseball movie I’ve been trying to get off the ground for a while,” Shelton says. “And I was with the owner behind home plate of the Monterrey team. And I asked him, with a translator, I said, ‘Wait a minute! Monterrey. This is where, in 1957, you had the famous team with that pitcher who pitched lefty and righty, Angel Macias.’

“And he goes, ‘Yes, do you want to meet him?’ I said, ‘Of course.’ And he screams, ‘Angel! Angel! Angel!’ And Angel, who was in his ‘60s or 70s comes over, and he’s a god there. And he runs the baseball academy outside of town, which is the place where prospects from Mexico, if they’re chosen, get to go there for a summer and train at the highest level. So, it was really kind of neat to see the resonance of all of that a half a century later.”

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Baseball Hall of Fame cancels 2020 induction ceremony because of coronavirus

This year’s Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony and associated weekend events have been canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak, the Hall announced Wednesday.

The 2020 class — Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and the late Marvin Miller — will now be inducted together with the 2021 class on July 25, 2021.

In a statement, the Hall cited “health and safety concerns” related to COVID-19 for the cancellation.

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Cooperstown, N.Y., home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, is about a 3 1/2-hour drive from midtown Manhattan. New York City is one of the areas in the U.S. that has been affected the most by the coronavirus pandemic. State residents are under a stay-at-home order through at least May 15.

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MLB draft’s new limits could ‘crush’ baseball dreams — especially among minorities

The Major League Baseball draft is coming, but no one knows the date or whether there will even be a central site.

The draft will no longer be 40 rounds, and it could be slashed to as few as five rounds, an 87.5% reduction in players.

Baseball scouts are permitted to talk to prospective draft picks by phone, text or Zoom, but they can’t even bump into them at the local burger carry-out.

They can study video, even going back to their Little League days, but anything filmed after March 27 is prohibited.

These are the new rules during the unprecedented times of the coronavirus pandemic, preparing for a baseball draft like no other.

It’s widely considered to be a deep and strong amateur draft, one that has had teams salivating for years. But with draft limits in place and signing bonus restrictions embedded, there is a growing fear MLB is endangering their future.

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Boston Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez was taken in the 20th round of the 2009 MLB draft (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)

“I tell you what’s going to happen, you’re going to crush the dreams of kids playing baseball," said San Diego-based agent Lonnie Murray, who has represented baseball players since 2004. “The opportunity is lost now. You had kids excited about what was supposed to be a pivotal moment in their life, getting drafted, and now that’s gone.

“And you know who that hurts the most? All of the kids who play in underserved communities, especially Black and Latino players."

MLB negotiated in its agreement with the players' union the option of limiting the draft to five rounds. If that's the case, there could be a dearth of minority players entering the draft.

A year ago, there were only 17 African-American and seven Latino high-school players drafted in the first five rounds, and only 12 from Division I colleges. If the draft is limited to just five rounds, and undrafted players can sign for a maximum of $20,000, where do those kids go? There were 72 African-American and Latino kids from Division I schools drafted after the fifth round a year ago that suddenly could disappear.

Sure, college is an option, but what if you can’t afford it? What are your chances of landing one of the 11.7 baseball scholarships stipulated by the NCAA? (Football Bowl Subdivision schools are permitted 95 scholarships.) 

You think those kids will still stick to baseball, or if they continue to play, will they even be noticed?

“My biggest fear with the draft is that you now go back to the trend," Murray said. “You’re going back to families that had the money to send their kids to college, or the kids with two-parent households that are able to afford to send their son to all of the showcase events.

 “A large number of kids in underserved, unrepresented communities aren’t going to be afforded the same opportunity. Where is that door for them to walk through? Where is the pathway to play?

“They going to be left behind, and that’s just wrong."

Major League Baseball, with the decline of African-American players to just 7.7% on last year’s opening-day rosters and injured lists — have consciously tried to reverse the trend. They’ve spent millions in urban academies, RBI programs, showcase events, and diversity and fellowship programs.

Yet, with the draft wiping out about 1,000 players who normally would be selected, MLB is jeopardizing all of the inroads they have made in the inner-city communities.

“Look, do I love the praise and attention that MLB gives to diversity? Yes," said Murray, the only female African-American certified baseball agent.

“Do they have a marketing campaign that creates attention? Yes. But is this going to hurt the black and Latino kids? Absolutely."

The Major League Baseball landscape is filled with current African-American and Latin veteran players who were late-round draft picks, but under the new system, they may never have gotten a chance. Take a look:

► 10th round: Washington Nationals infielder Howie Kendrick (Angels, 2002)

► 13th round: Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols (Cardinals, 1999)

► 14th round: St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler (Rockies, 2004)

► 16th round: San Diego Padres outfielder Tommy Pham (Cardinals, 2006)

► 17th round: Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain (Royals, 2004) and Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Russell Martin (Dodgers, 2002)

► 20th round: Boston Red Sox DH J.D. Martinez (Astros, 2009)

► 27th round: Houston Astros catcher Martin Maldonado (Angels, 2004)

► 28th round: Minnesota Twins closer Sergio Romo (Giants, 2005)

► 38th round: Free agent outfielder Rajai Davis (Pirates, 2001).

► 45th round: Free agent pitcher Tony Sipp (Cleveland, 2004).

► 48th round: Seattle Mariners pitcher Carl Edwards Jr. (Rangers, 2011)

► 50th round: Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jarrod Dyson (Royals, 2006).

If the draft is limited to just five rounds, what is going to happen to all of those players?

“We are hopeful that those kids will still sign, even if they’re not drafted," said Tony Clark, executive director of the MLB Players Association. “But there are concerns, and they remain, that young minority kids aren’t going to be provided the same opportunity as others, especially in a climate we’ve seen so many changes."

Major league scouting departments still are holding out hope the draft, which must be conducted between June 10 and July 20, is at least 10 rounds. The extra five rounds would cost teams only about $1 million, and it would add 150 more players into the draft.

Teams used to be permitted to spend up to $125,000 for any late-round pick or undrafted player without exceeding their bonus pool. Among the 960 players who signed last year, 680 received signing bonuses of at least $20,000, according to Baseball America.

Now, the flexibility of paying an undrafted free-agent more than $20,000 is gone.

And perhaps the players who disappear through the cracks in this draft will never come back.

“If you’re intended goal is to increase diversity, then why are we taking away their opportunity?" Murray said. "What are we doing here? We’re depleting the talent pool.

“And let’s stop with the excuses that black kids are choosing football or basketball because it’s more fun. It’s not based on boring vs. fun. I find that insulting. No, they are choosing other sports because there’s a greater opportunity. They’re choosing other sports because they’re not seeing faces of their own color on the baseball field."

The economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic already being felt. MLB players with guaranteed contracts are being paid an advance totaling about $286,500 through May, but they receive no salary. Minor-league players are receiving $400 a week through May, with no guarantee of further payments.

“You can’t call it America’s pastime and contribute to the hardship," Murray said. "With a crumbling domestic and global economy, soaring unemployment in the U.S., and no clear pathway or timeline for resolve, MLB’s slaughter of current systems will not only have a brutal impact on the communities, but on these countless young Americans who trusted in the dream of a future their respective team presented.

“Players are going to have to ask themselves, "'If you can’t stand with me now, how can you ask me to stand with you in the future?’

“Diversity will be nothing more than a marketing campaign."

Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale

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Former Blue Jays second baseman Damaso Garcia, a two-time All-Star, dies at 63

Damaso Garcia, a two-time All-Star second baseman with the Toronto Blue Jays who was part of the team’s 1985 American League East championship squad, died Wednesday in his native Dominican Republic, his son, Damaso Jr., confirmed to ESPN. He was 63.

Garcia played in the majors for 11 seasons, including seven with the Blue Jays. He anchored the middle infield in Toronto along with countryman Tony Fernandez, who died in February at the age of 57.

Garcia made the all-star team in 1984 and 1985 and helped the Jays to the franchise’s first playoff appearance. He hit .283 for his career, including a .310 average in 1982 that earned him the AL’s Silver Slugger award for his position.

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Opinion: Hank Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ Renaissance man, is gone far too early

He was the chip off the old boss.

New York Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner was like his old man, George.

He was bombastic, just like his father. There was no filter, just like his father. You want his opinion, well, you better be not be afraid of the answer.

Maybe the baseball world wasn’t ready for Hank Steinbrenner, and he ultimately decided to silence himself, but for almost a year in 2008 when he was vocal, exercising his authority for everyone to hear, man was he fun to be around.

Hank Steinbrenner died early Tuesday morning in Clearwater, Florida, at the age of 63, after what the team called a "longstanding health issue."

It’s a shame Yankees fans never got a chance to know him better, because they would have absolutely loved him.

Hank Steinbrenner could play guitar, play the piano, had his own dragster and loved his horses. (Photo: Chris Pedota, USA TODAY NETWORK)

They knew all about the family patriarch, George, of course. He returned the Yankees to prominence, as one of the most powerful sports franchises in the world. They won six championships during George Steinbrenner’s reign, turning an $8 million investment into a $5 billion sports team, according to Forbes’ valuations.

They know Hal, the calmer, cerebral younger brother, who has been running the Yankees for the past 12 years, maintaining its prominence on the field, without ever betraying their business model.

But few knew Hank, or ever even got a glimpse of him.

He was the life of the party. The genuine article. He could play guitar. Play the piano. Had his own dragster on the hot-rod circuit. And loved his horses, breeding, raising and racing them.

Did we ever love hearing him talk.

"Hank was a Renaissance man," Yankees president Randy Levine told USA TODAY Sports. "You could talk to Hank and in one conversation go from baseball to rock n’ roll to culture to history, and he would hold his own.

"He was so incredibly smart. He was humble, very self-effacing, but not insecure. He knew who he was, and was comfortable in his own skin."

The New York Yankees mourn the passing of General Partner and Co-Chairperson Henry G. “Hank” Steinbrenner. pic.twitter.com/rL07EUHirS

I’ll always treasure the time I sat down with him for an hour in the quiet of his office at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, with Extra Strength Tylenol and a pack of cigarettes on his desk, a Fender Stratocaster guitar on the office floor. We talked about anything and everything on the eve of Steinbrenner flying out to see his first All-Star Game, the final one at old Yankee Stadium in 2008.

Steinbrenner kept insisting during our conversation that he wasn’t his father, and had much more patience, but the more he talked, the louder he got, the more he ridiculed the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, the more he sounded like his old man.

"People in baseball know it, whether they want to admit it or not," Steinbrenner told USA TODAY Sports that day, "it helps everyone when the Yankees are good. The Red Sox, whether they're good or not, doesn't necessarily matter, nationally.

"Let's face it: The Yankees are baseball history. You're talking about 26 championships."

It became 27 championships the following year.

"Hank could be direct and outspoken," the Yankees said in a statement, "but in the very same conversation show great tenderness and lightheartedness."

Hank, the oldest of the four Steinbrenner kids, really didn’t have that much initial interest in baseball. He would rather be with his horses, running the family farm during the day, soothing his soul with a smoke, a drink and music at night.

He loved telling the story when his dad took him to his first concert in Cleveland. He was 7 years old. He went to see the Beatles.

"At that time, my dad didn't understand rock 'n' roll," Steinbrenner says. "And he certainly didn't understand Beatlemania. The minute (George) Harrison backed up on stage, all hell broke loose. I'll never forget the look on my dad's face."

Steinbrenner, who became the voice of the Yankees when his dad’s health started to fail, decided after the 2008 season it would be best for his brother, Hal, to run the Yankees, becoming the managing general partner. He returned to the horse farm in Ocala, Florida. He still was involved with the Yankees, offering scouting advice on players, helping negotiate contracts, and being part of all major business decisions, but publicly went mute.

Gone were the days he lashed out at Alex Rodriguez for opting out of his Yankees contract: "Does he want to go in the Hall of Fame as a Yankee or a Toledo Mud Hen?"

Gone were the days he was critical of manager Joe Torre after his acrimonious departure: "Where was Joe's career in '95 when my dad hired him?"

Gone were the days he took jabs at the rival Red Sox: "Red Sox Nation? What a bunch of [expletive] that is. … Go anywhere in America, and you won't see Red Sox hats and jackets; you'll see Yankee hats and jackets. This is a Yankee country."

Just like that, serenity replaced turbulence in the Bronx.

Now, there is silence.

Henry G. "Hank" Steinbrenner is gone.

Much, much, too early.

Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale.

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Major League Baseball Players Association sets up program to help non-roster players

The Major League Baseball Players Association, recognizing the financial hardship for the non-roster players who didn’t qualify for financial assistance in their agreement last week with Major League Baseball, established a program Friday that will help non-roster players while baseball remains in a shutdown.

The 371 non-roster players who were in spring training camps until March 13, who have played at least a day in the big leagues, can be paid up to $50,000 under the program. They were excluded as part of the $170 million agreement reached last week with clubs advancing $4,750 a day for 60 days to all players on guaranteed contracts.

The program, which is voluntary, will pay non-roster players based on their service time.

Players with less than one year of service will be paid $5,000.

1-2 years: $7,500

2-3 years: $15,000

3-5 years: $25,000

6 years or more: $50,000

The players who have earned millions throughout their career, such as Felix Hernandez of the Atlanta Braves, could opt to pass on the program, leaving more money for other players.

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