Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka takes Post readers behind the scenes as he tries to stay prepared for the 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic. As told to Ken Davidoff.
Greetings from Oregon, where I’m hoping not to be for too much longer. I’m paying a lot of attention to what’s going on because now I think that we’re starting to hear solid proposals on how we’re going to get back on the field. It’s making the light at the end of the tunnel seem more reachable, more attainable.
I saw the news that Gov. Cuomo said he would support teams in New York that want to reopen their facilities and play games without fans. I thought that was really positive, just a step in the right direction of getting back on the field. It’s good because if it’s possible to play in New York at some point, you would think it’s definitely possible to play anywhere.
I’ve seen the proposal on safety and health that Major League Baseball sent to the players. Personally, I think whatever it takes for us to get back on the field, I’m fine with that, but it’s going to be a challenge to meet those safety standards that they’ve got outlined. Not showering at the field will be interesting. But I’m willing and ready to take whatever safety precautions are necessary to get back onto the field. I’m fortunate that I don’t have any underlying conditions.
As for the discussion that’s going on about how much the players should get paid, I’m choosing to let Tony Clark and the players’ union negotiate on my behalf. I’d rather not negotiate on this matter through the media.
We’ve been shut down for about two and a half months now, and while I have gone longer periods not playing in games during the spring — as I’ve mentioned previously, I underwent Tommy John surgery on my right elbow in 2013 and missed about a year — this is the longest time in the spring I’ve spent away from a baseball team altogether since I first began the sport.
I started playing baseball at age 5, in tee ball. It was just for fun, and even when I was a few years older, 8 or 9 years old, I remember some coaches saying, “He could play at a higher division than his age group.” My mom was like, “No, I just want him to have fun.”
When I was 9, we moved up to Northern California (from Southern California) for a year, and I started taking golf lessons. The instructor asked me, “Before we start, do you want to be a recreational golfer or a serious golfer?”
“What’s recreational?” I asked.
“It means you’re just playing for fun,” the instructor said. “You don’t care that you’re bad.”
I figured I’d say what I thought he wanted to hear, so I said, “Serious.”
Then the instructor wrapped a belt around my upper arms, to teach me the proper takeaway, and had me pinch a penny between my right thumb and my palm to teach me the proper grip. I did that for like an hour. It’s all we did that day. And in time, I kind of became a serious golfer. I won one tournament where I shot 1-over par. I still have the plaque at my parents’ house.
When I got to high school, I had to make a decision because golf and baseball were both played during the spring season. I chose baseball. I felt that I was better in baseball relative to other kids I was competing against. In golf, I was inconsistent. A lot of kids were shooting even par at every tournament, and I wasn’t close. I just thought from my experience that I had a better chance at progressing with baseball.
I’m happy with my decision. And I can’t wait to start playing baseball again.