WASHINGTON — The coronavirus-shortened Major League Baseball season finally started amid the pandemic Thursday night with plenty of unusual elements - zero fans, umpires wearing masks, Washington star Juan Soto sidelined by COVID-19, and both teams kneeling together before the national anthem.
Players from both clubs wore T-shirts saying Black Lives Matter during batting practice at Nationals Park, and the letters “BLM” were stenciled into the back of the mound at the center of the diamond.
In a poignant reference to the racial reckoning happening in the U.S., players and other members of both teams held a long black ribbon while standing spaced out along the two foul lines. After they placed the ribbon on the ground, everyone then got on their knees.
They all then rose for a taped performance of the national anthem.
That display followed a series of videos shown on the outfield scoreboard: about Black Lives Matter, showing major league players including Nats second baseman, Howie Kendrick.
“I'd rather be playing baseball than not," Max Scherzer, who struck out 11 but gave up all of New York's runs, said. "All the things we can get negative about and cry about, I'm just not going to do it.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was called upon to hurl the first pitch at Nats Park. Sadly, his pitch was... a little wild.
Dr. Fauci was admittedly nervous about making his MLB debut Thursday, and told Nats first baseman Ryan Zimmerman that he had been practicing his fastball quite a bit.
Unfortunately, it looks like the masked Dr. Fauci needed a few more warmup throws. His ball landed somewhere between home plate and the Nats' dugout entrance. Perhaps the baseball wanted to practice effective social distancing?
What began as a muggy evening turned into a dark, windy downpour, replete with rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightning, prompting a delay in the top of the sixth inning.
After waiting 1 hour, 58 minutes - 15 minutes more than were played - the game was called off and goes into the books as a 4-1 win for New York.