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A Bizarre Opening Weekend for the Oakland Athletics and baseball

Oly Toledo! A walk-off grand slam by Matt Olson! What else happened in Oakland in the opening night game against the rival Los Angeles Angels?

A three hour 46 minute show at the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum started in heartfelt fashion with a long moment of silence for individuals who have died of COVID19, members of the Oakland Athletics franchise who have been lost this past year, and honoring Black Lives Matter. It ended in slamming, celebratory fashion.

The A’s bats were slow to leave the runway but eventually came to life in the eighth inning. An RBI double by Ramon Laureano to tie the game would be followed by an RBI triple off the bat of A’s All Star third baseman Matt Chapman, to put the A’s ahead by one. That lead would only hold up shortly as All Star closer Liam Hendriks blew his first save opportunity of the season when veteran catcher Jason Castro lined one to the bleachers out in right center. This would send the game into the first extra innings seen in the 60-game season. 

The top of the 10th was an inning where history was witnessed. For the first time in MLB history an inning started off with an automatic runner on second base. That runner, someone who has already made history was Shohei Ohtani. In 2018, Ohtani made his Major League debut with the Los Angeles Angels becoming the first star hitting pitcher since Babe Ruth. In this case, he was the team’s designated hitter as it was not a night where he was pitching. Even Ohtani  had to be reminded that he was going in as the first ever ghost runner on second. His debut as a ghost runner did not exactly go as planned. After Olson knocked down a hard grounder to first he saw Ohtani was far enough off the base and quickly fired to third base. This caught Ohtani off guard, getting him out in a rundown. Joe Maddon’s Angels did not capitalize as the the first team to be tested with the runner on second base opportunity. 

Last year’s team leader in home runs Matt Olson did not miss a chance to crack. He got the perfect slider hanging over the middle with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th. All he needed to do with the game tied 3-3, was hit the ball into the outfield. The Angels only had two outfielders on the final play. The team tried another unconventional strategy: using a fifth infielder. A night of firsts in Oakland was just one game in a series of eccentricities on the first weekend of the season. 

From Hunter Pence making history as the first ever designated hitter to hit in a National League ballpark to cardboard cutout fans, the MLB was prepared for firsts and peculiar moments. This first weekend set the tone for the excitement. In a season where every game is going to matter not a single team started the season 3-0, the last time this happened was 1954. The league added to this intensity by expanding the playoffs to sixteen teams just moments before first pitch on Thursday night’s opener, only stretching the competitive circle.

But one occurrence the MLB hoped they would not have to brace for happened. When it seemed like the MLB had come to fruition with their plan for the season, an outbreak occurred in one clubhouse reported on Monday morning. 12 players on the Miami Marlins tested positive for COVID-19 after their three game series in Philadelphia. This has led to a pair of game cancelations including the Marlins home opener against the Baltimore Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies game against the New York Yankees. 

The game of baseball is on its heels, with the pandemic directly impacting a whole group of players. Not many were expecting that severe of an outbreak among teams. As no news has been reported about the status of play for the rest of the season, only one word can describe the 2020 baseball season so far: Unsettling.

To what extent will the players safety be at risk? What other twists and turns will come next this season? Will this already historic season go down in history as a defunct season?

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