CHICAGO — Like every other fan, Chicago Cubs reliever Jeremy Jeffress is crossing his fingers and hoping for an agreement between Major League Baseball and the players union to restart the season in July.
But if baseball strikes out, he knows the ramifications could be far-reaching.
“It’s going to impact, the game, the city, a lot of stuff,” Jeffress said Thursday from his Phoenix home. “I would say (to fans) just be patient, like we are. Something is going to happen, and understand that the wait for us to play baseball, if we do happen to play baseball, is going to be well worth it, because everyone is going to come out and give you a great show. It’s going to be fun.”
The MLB Players Association said in a statement Thursday they have studied the health and safety proposal from MLB and would respond later. Even if that proposal is approved, the two sides must then negotiate on player compensation for a shortened season.
While Jeffress awaits word on whether spring training 2.0 can begin in June, he’s working out on his own and doing what he can to help out his community during the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, he cooked enough food to serve 70 doctors and nurses at Banner Health Medical Center in Phoenix, giving back to the hospital that treated him for epilepsy in 2013.
Jeffress, who signed with the Cubs in the offseason after spending most of his 10-year career with the Brewers, owns his own food truck business, fulfilling a passion to cook and sell seafood. He donated 70 individual plates that included a fish fillet, four jumbo shrimp, scallops and a couple of sides, including his own mac and cheese. He spent about three hours serving and conversing with the hospital employees.
“I thought giving away food, something people need, can just bring a smile to your face while going through all this bad stuff that’s going on right now,” he said. “Anything I can do to help, I want to do it. I know the hospital, saw a couple of new faces. But just to go and show support felt awesome.”
One rewarding aspect of the sports shutdown has been seeing players such as Jeffress, Ian Happ, Anthony Rizzo, Eloy Jimenez and others help people working on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus, along with teams such as the Cubs and White Sox opening up their ballparks for blood drives or food pantries.
But everyone is anxious for those parks to host ballgames and for players to get back on the field.
Jeffress said he has kept his arm loose by throwing at a nearby facility and believes he’ll be able to ramp up his arm strength quickly with a three-week spring training. The players keep in touch with Zoom meetings, and he said Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy calls all the pitchers to check on their workloads.
“I know we cut spring training off at a vital date,” Jeffress said. “We were all pretty much ready to go. They just want to make sure we stay at that level.”
Jeffress wouldn’t hazard a guess as to what will happen during talks between MLB and the players union. Cubs player representative Kris Bryant is keeping his teammates informed on the latest developments, but has not been made available to reporters.
Jeffress said all the players can do is listen to the information provided and hope it all works out.
“We’re just hoping to play baseball,” he said. “We’re just like little puppets right now. Are you going to play with us, or not?”
If baseball does resume, look for Jeffress to bring his food truck to Chicago so Cubs fans can sample his scallops, mac and cheese and other dishes.
“I would definitely want it in Wrigleyville,” he said.
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