BALTIMORE — Zack Britton called the team together at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The Yankees’ union rep presented the idea that instead of going back to New York and waiting to see if the Phillies would be cleared by coronavirus testing and could play the two-game series scheduled there, instead the Bombers would reroute and go to Baltimore to play the Orioles, whose series with the Marlins had also been put on hold by a COVID-19 outbreak.
The players agreed, but Britton needed one more man onboard. Britton then asked Ben Tuliebitz “can we do this? Is it possible?”
Tuliebitz immediately got on the phone and made it happen.
The Yankees’ traveling secretary had to find a hotel that had 70 open rooms that could be fully staffed to provide meals and service within hours.
“The issue we really had was just because of what’s going on right now in the hospitality industry is that the hotel, while they had rooms available he was concerned about staffing, could we get enough staff to take on the 70 rooms that we’re bringing in,” Tuliebitz said Wednesday afternoon. “But it all worked out and then we pivoted, we had our equipment truck waiting on standby. We had bus drivers on standby so we kind of told everybody to be patient until we got official word. And then I think right around 2:30 (Brian Cashman) called and said it was official we’re gonna play two games in Baltimore, so we got the guys moving.”
It is a logistical nightmare moving a baseball team. The hotel rooms, buses, flights, trains and automobiles are usually all booked and contracts signed usually eight months before the team even arrives in town. Playing a baseball season in the middle of a pandemic, however, has everyone picking up extra duties.
For Tuliebitz, who usually handles travel and helps make travel easy for players and their families, the first red flags about this trip went up Sunday. That was when the first of the 15 Marlins players tested positive for COVID-19 before the final game of their series against the Phillies. He immediately began coordinating with the Phillies to bring in the clubhouse staff from Yankee Stadium to make sure that they had worked in the visiting clubhouse would not expose the Yankees players.
“I woke up Sunday morning and we heard the news that the Marlins had. I think we all knew we had to exercise some caution moving forward because we were following the Marlins in Philadelphia,” Tuliebitz said. “We talked about the cleaning protocols and everything that went in place and whatever we could do. We’re going into someone else’s stadium. But we have to look after ourselves. And so, you know, our guys were really good about it.”
Tuliebitz said that the quick turnaround of this season, scrapping a seasons-worth of travel that had been on the books for months and redoing 30 games on the road for this unusual schedule isn’t the biggest challenge.
Like everyone on the Yankees, his biggest concerns are making sure that they are taking every precaution. That was certainly emphasized this weekend with the news about the Marlins outbreak, which paused their season for a week.
“We could probably throw together things pretty quickly if we wanted to, but we’re trying to be careful about how we do things and how we’re getting into hotels and how we’re spacing out the rooms and doing our part to make sure that we’re keeping up with the MLB protocols, Tuliebitz said. “It’s that extra layer, making sure that things are done appropriately because I don’t think anybody wants to have anything wrong and have it be in their hands.
“On the logistics and the operation and the travel side of things I want to make sure that I’m doing my part to make sure we’re buttoned up,”Tuliebitz said. “You know like we’ve got a great staff. Everybody’s doing their part in the our medical staff has been working tirelessly to make sure that things are in place.”
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