Kevin Pillar gets it.
The veteran outfielder is new to the Red Sox, having signed with Boston over the offseason after parts of seven seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays and a one-year stint with the San Francisco Giants. But he’s already showed signs of emerging as a clubhouse leader, first offering a strong assessment last week of the club’s underperformance and then sharing a refreshing perspective this week on playing baseball amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
?If you?re here, you might as well take advantage of it,” Pillar told reporters during a video conference before Wednesday’s 5-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. “We?re here. We might as well compete. If we?ve got a game, regardless if there?s people in the stands, regardless of the rumors about the season getting shut down, regardless of our own individual thoughts about what should happen or should not happen. If we?re here, we might as well go out and play as hard as we can. If we?re here, we might as well try to go out and try to win a game.
?The same goes for us individually. If we?re here and you?ve got an opportunity to step in the batter?s box, make the best of it. Especially when things aren?t going as well, we start to think about all the possibilities. A lot of us left our family and kids at home. We?re thinking, ?Ah, I wish I was at home. I wish they would shut down the season. I wish we had a little bit more clarity on what?s going to happen. I wish there was some more transparency.’ These are all just excuses we allow ourselves to make for ourselves, especially when things aren?t going well.”
This season has been anything but smooth for the Red Sox, who entered Friday’s series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park in last place in the American League East with a 4-8 record. There’s still time for Boston to right the ship, obviously, but each win and each loss hold more weight this season by virtue of Major League Baseball’s pandemic-induced 60-game schedule.
So, the Red Sox can’t afford to make excuses. While this season undoubtedly presents a unique set of challenges, with schedules fluctuating based on positive COVID-19 tests and certain protocols affecting how players prepare for each game, no team is immune to such difficulties. Those clubs that adjust accordingly and arrive each day with the right frame of mind likely will enjoy the most success in this unprecedented 2020 campaign.
“You see teams that have gotten off to good starts and have been successful. Those teams don?t look like they?re making excuses,” Pillar said. “They?re not worried about if there?s a game tomorrow or if the season gets shut down. They?re just making the most of the opportunity they have every individual day they step out on the field. I think that?s the most important message I?ve tried to deliver. I know our staff, I know some older players have tried to deliver it.
“Don?t worry about tomorrow. Focus on today. We know we?re playing today. We can?t predict the future. We can?t predict that the season is going to get shut down tomorrow, three weeks from now or through the entire thing. It?s not worth our time thinking about. Just make the most of the opportunity we have today.?
Show up and play. The rest will take care of itself. Sounds simple enough.