CLEARWATER, Fla. — Bryce Harper understands why Major League Baseball is taking drastic, unprecedented measures to guard against the infiltration of team clubhouses by the coronavirus.
But the Phillies superstar isn't taking the same precautions in his personal life.
“I live, man,” Harper said Tuesday, standing in a tunnel behind the Phillies’ clubhouse and keeping the league-mandated six-foot distance from a semicircle of reporters. “I don’t worry about a disease or a virus. I live my life. I’m doing everything the same. I’m shaking people’s hands. I’m high-fiving. I’m healthy. I’m 27. The people that are affected, it’s a lot of older and maybe some young, as well. But I just live my life.”
MLB decided on Monday night to close all clubhouses, effectively immediately, to anyone other than “players and essential employees of teams and team facilities.” The league joined the NBA, NHL, and Major League Soccer in issuing a joint statement that announced the barring of reporters from locker rooms and clubhouses.
The new measures went into effect Tuesday morning at Spectrum Field, with three players emerging from the clubhouse to conduct requested one-on-one interviews and security turning away members of the Phillies’ player-development and scouting staffs who were apparently deemed as nonessential.
But the ballpark gates opened on time — and fans began filing in, as usual — for the Phillies’ scheduled 1:05 p.m. exhibition game against the Minnesota Twins, who sent a team of players on the 2 1/2-hour bus trip here from Fort Myers, Fla.
“That’s Major League Baseball’s decision,” Harper said of not canceling games or closing the ballpark to the public. “I don’t know. If they think fans should be here, if they don’t, then that’s on Major League Baseball. If fans still want to come and watch us play, then we respect that. We want that.”
Harper doesn't blame fans for showing up. If he was back home in Las Vegas, he said he would likely be attending Golden Knights hockey games at T-Mobile Arena.
“I’m a clean freak anyways,” Harper said. “I wash my hands every day. That’s just how I am. If someone coughs on me, that’s not cool. Cover your mouth. Sneeze into your arm, like everyone says. I’m living normal. I feel bad for the people that have been affected in every other country and here. Hopefully, it can get better. But I feel like myself, and I think everyone in our clubhouse is OK. As long as that stays true, we’ll be OK.”