- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 5, 2020

Though he’s still not 100% sure about playing in 2020, Washington Nationals closer Sean Doolittle wants there to be baseball this year. And he says the public needs to pitch in.

During an extensive conversation with reporters Sunday, Doolittle said the baseball season won’t go very far if people don’t help quell the spread of COVID-19 by wearing masks in public.

“We’re trying to bring baseball back during a pandemic that’s killed 130,000 people (in the U.S.),” Doolittle said. “We’re way worse off as a country than we were in March when we shut this thing down. And look at where other developed countries are and their response to this. We haven’t done any of the things that other countries have done to bring sports back.

“Sports are like the reward of a functional society, and we’re just like trying to bring it back even though we’ve taken none of the steps to flatten the curve or whatever you want to say,” he added.

Sports returned more quickly in other parts of the world, from rugby in New Zealand rugby to soccer throughout Europe, as their cases of COVID-19 steadily declined. The U.S. is experiencing a spike in cases in places like Florida, Texas and Arizona, while other parts of the country have improved.

Doolittle warned that “virus fatigue” is leading to some people becoming too lax about the pandemic.

“If there aren’t sports, it’s going to be because people are not wearing masks because the response to this has been so politicized,” Doolittle said. “We need help from the general public. If they want to watch baseball, please wear a mask, social distance, keep washing your hands. We can’t just have virus fatigue and think: ‘Well, it’s been four months. We’re over it. This has been enough time, right? We’ve waited long enough, shouldn’t sports come back now?’ No, there’s things we have to do in order to bring this stuff back.”

His message echoes a similar sentiment being shared about the NFL and college football starting on time in the fall. Figures ranging from U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams to Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to Alabama coach Nick Saban recently said that the public should wear masks if they want to see football unaffected by the pandemic.

• Adam Zielonka can be reached at azielonka@washingtontimes.com.

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