White Sox feel right at home training in Schaumburg
At first glance, it was a normal day at Boomers Stadium in Schaumburg.
Baseballs were flying during batting practice, and mitts were popping as pitchers threw bullpen sessions.
The only thing missing was the game, and that's what makes baseball season abnormal at so many levels this year.
At about the same time Boomers general manager Michael Larson was sadly learning the Frontier League season was postponed by COVID-19 in late June, he was happy to salvage something out of a difficult development.
Major-league baseball got the green light to play a short season, and teams were looking for training locations for their taxi squads.
The White Sox reached out to Schaumburg, and select players not on their 30-man roster began working out at Boomers Stadium on July 15.
"Talking about this idea kind of came out right around the same time we're canceling the (Frontier League) season," Larson said. "We're getting the clubhouses ready and getting everything ready to go for major-league level talent at the same time we're announcing our season is out. It's a great event to have, we're excited for the White Sox partnership to be out here. It's been fun having them out here.
"Obviously, the No. 1 thing on our end from an operational standpoint is making sure we work with the Sox security folks and everybody on keeping all the players safe, keeping all the proper social distancing, the proper cleaning and all of those measures in place to make sure this can all safely operate."
So far, so good.
The initial taxi squad started with 16 players, and three players (infielder Ryan Goins, relief pitchers Ian Hamilton and Matt Foster) have already joined the White Sox's roster.
Right fielder Nomar Mazara, who is on the injured list for undisclosed reasons, has trained at Schaumburg the last three days and is close to rejoining the Sox.
It's not an ideal situation, there is no doubt about that.
Like the Frontier League, there is no minor-league baseball this season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Getting players ready to move to the majors while also offering needed development are twin goals of taxi squads, and the White Sox like how the Schaumburg camp is operating.
"It's been really nice," said Chris Getz, the Sox's director of player development. "The Schaumburg crew has been really great to work with. We've got everything we need, a phenomenal workout area, weight room and training space. The clubhouse is nice. We were able to help with kind of upgrading the cage and put a covering there to help us with weather. We can throw sides, we can hit there.
"They've done a great job with the field. (White Sox groundskeeper) Roger (Bossard) was a huge help in lasering it just so guys feel like they're playing on a major-league field, and that's our goal at the minor-league level as well."
Larson can't wait until Schaumburg is back and using the new hitting/pitching cage behind the right field fence and enjoying the upgraded field.
Hopefully, normalcy returns in 2021. For now, the White Sox are making the best of a tough situation with the help of the Boomers.
"Right now, the primary focus has always been on just getting through this 2020 season and making the best out of the world we're in," Larson said. "The batting tunnel, that's going to be a really nice addition for us when our team comes around in 2021. It's a great new addition. Our groundskeeper and the groundskeepers from the Sox have been longtime friends, so there's been a lot of back and forth already on that and working together on improving some of the playing surface elements. All of that is going to come around for a better 2021."