Watching baseball is part of Andrew Luedtke’s normal spring and summer routine, but these times are anything but normal or routine.
To cope with a Twins season delayed indefinitely in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Luedtke brings a little bit of the past into the present every day. While working from home in Robbinsdale, he has on in the background a replay every day of a Twins games from 2019 — courtesy of a free offering from MLB.TV.
“The biggest thing for me is that having reruns of last year’s games are calming. Baseball is a huge part of my life,” said Luedtke, who was watching a late April 2019 Twins vs. Astros game Tuesday. “No matter what is going on in life, it’s always an escape from the world for a few hours. It’s our pastime for a reason.”
Luedtke might be staying at home, but he’s not alone. Other sports fans are getting their fix from re-watching classic games or even seeking out obscure sports — sometimes with bets in play. Others are playing a lot of sports video games or organizing virtual events. Still more are getting creative to stay active and participate, in any way, with sports they love.
Escaping into the past
With plenty of channels offering replays of classic games, there has been no shortage of fans diving into those vaults — with baseball and NCAA men’s basketball tournament classics proving among the more popular choices this time of year because they fill specific voids in late March and early April.
For some fans, watching old games has no appeal. They either consider them poor substitutes for the real thing or are too busy keeping up with the news of the day or busy schedules to dedicate time to watching them.
Maybe there’s a good, happy medium?
Local musician Matt Wilson said he recently re-watched a Timberwolves game from earlier this season and likened it to “eating a bag of candy.”
Any joy, even short-lived, is well-earned right now.
“To be watching games, even though I’ve already seen them, brings me that feeling of escape and peace,” Luedtke said. “2019 was a great year not only for the Twins but personally as well. To be able to relive some of those memories through baseball leaves me with a sense of happiness which is much needed, if only for a few hours per day, in this uncertain time.”
Invent or discover games
Other Minnesotans are getting creative in their attempts to stay connected to sports. Joey White has organized virtual sports trivia. Sean O’Mara and a friend have been creating Twitter polls — such as who was better: Michael Jordan or LeBron James — and wagering on the results.
Even without money on the line, there’s fun to be had. As one Twitter follower said: “A neighbor and I had social distance happy hour in my driveway. [We] did live play-by-play as another neighbor and his son played P-I-G in their driveway.”
Others are playing copious amounts of sports video games — all the ones you would imagine, plus some you might not know about.
“I’ve gotten really wrapped up in the baseball simulator Out of the Park Baseball,” said Ryan Glanzer, a former Minneapolis resident now living in Austin, Texas. “I’ve managed the Twins into the 2064 season.”
Raise your hand if you can’t wait to see what an 80-something Nelson Cruz will do that year.
Others are getting very into obscure contests — everything from dice throwing to rock skipping to marble racing. Yes, you read that correctly.
Devin Vander Schaaf, 33, of Minneapolis said he “stumbled across professional rock skipping. … I’m bored and I miss sports. And, let’s just say rock skipping didn’t exactly fill the sports void.”
But he did learn some great new rock-skipping lingo that he hopes to work into casual conversation. Perhaps Vander Schaaf’s son Liam, 7, is doing a better job. He invented a “candy bracket” for friends and family to enter in lieu of March Madness.
Twitter follower @davidmerdbag wrote: “My friends and I have picked teams for marble racing [Marbula 1] on YouTube and we get excited and watch a new video whenever a new race comes out.”
Backyard tee times
Dale Wessel admits his golf course is “rushed” and “not my best work,” but he’s charging forward nonetheless with an 18-hole, 450-yard course in his yard.
Hole 1 of “Wesselwood,” finished early this week, has a dogleg to the right. It’s just a couple chips, but it requires a delicate touch.
“In these tough times we still have to have some fun. I sure did the last couple of days,” said Wessel, 67, of Eagan. “When we weren’t playing on the course as kids, we would play backyard golf. This brings back many fond memories from a simpler time and place.”
Tim Freitag is trying to do the same thing for his son, Calvin, 7, who plays hockey in Elk River’s youth system. He put a basketball hoop and fake ice in his garage to create a makeshift area in which Calvin can stay active.
Maybe some of these innovations and workarounds will have staying power even when dramatic social distancing measures aren’t in place. But the notion that all of this is both for the greater good and hopefully temporary seems to be a unifying force carrying a lot of fans through.
“I hope that I don’t have to watch all 101 wins before we get to see baseball in 2020,” Luedtke said.