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.

Angels outfielder Mike Trout with Bryce Harper, when Harper was with the Nationals. The two are baseball's biggest stars, but Trout has his reservations about coming back to play the coronavirus-condensed season.
PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS / AP Photo
Angels outfielder Mike Trout with Bryce Harper, when Harper was with the Nationals. The two are baseball's biggest stars, but Trout has his reservations about coming back to play the coronavirus-condensed season.

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.

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.”

The Phillies split their workout Friday into four sessions. A morning group trained at Citizens Bank Park while another group took a chartered bus across Broad Street to FDR Park. Two more groups did the same in the afternoon.

The Phillies have a strict set of rules to follow with the opening of summer camp.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
The Phillies have a strict set of rules to follow with the opening of summer camp.

Players were given specific times to report to the ballpark and were allowed just 15 minutes to change into their uniforms. They dressed in separate clubhouses, had their their specific clubhouse snacks waiting in bags when they arrived, and ate their meals at the stadium’s Diamond Club. The training and weight rooms are wiped down whenever a player leaves the room, players wear masks when they’re not on the field, they stretch on the concourse, and take batting practice in just groups of three.

“I was impressed at how good our guys followed the instructions about wearing masks and social distancing and sticking to a schedule,” manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s not something anyone is used to. Not being in close contact with your buddies in the clubhouse. They were really good today.”

The laid-back nature of spring training in Florida is not present at summer camp in Philadelphia. Nothing seemed casual on Friday. There’s no high-fives -- the “air high-five is coming back,” Harper said -- or spitting or hanging in the clubhouse.

Players have to wear masks when they're not on the field and do their stretching on the Citizens Bank Park concourse.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Players have to wear masks when they're not on the field and do their stretching on the Citizens Bank Park concourse.

If baseball returns this season, they’ll first have to survive three weeks of training amid a global pandemic. The rules followed Friday at Citizens Bank Park will help. The players will not only have to stay healthy, but they’ll have to feel comfortable. And maybe that will be enough to keep the stars on the field.

“When you have a pregnant wife or a family, anything like that, you do get cautious,” Harper said. “I think New Jersey, New York, they got hit the hardest or it seems like that. Vegas was a little bit different. We stayed indoors as much as possible, wore our masks to the grocery store and things like that. But it wasn’t hitting us as hard so when you come out to New Jersey, you don’t know what to expect so the last three days, understanding what we’re going to do at the field, understanding that we do have to wear masks wherever we go, those are certain things you have to get used to and try to respect the people around you and understand that other people have things wrong with them, if that’s asthma or anything else that you have to protect them as well. I feel safe right now.

“As an organization, we’ve done a great job. As I’ve been here for the last three days, I think we’ve done a great job of trying to stay apart as much as possible and not hang out in the clubhouse or hang out around each other, which is probably the hardest part. You’re so excited to see all your friends, excited to see your teammates, but you have to understand that we want to get through this season. We can’t have guys get sick, we can’t have guys test positive or they’re going to be off the field and quarantined for 14 days and then trying to get ready. It’s something we have to get used to as a team but I feel safe right now.”