TAMPA — After more than three months of waiting, the Yankees’ Luke Voit is among the relieved players that the MLB lockout is over.
“It was a good feeling to wake up today and know I had a job again,” Voit said Friday, a day after MLB and the Players Association reached an agreement on a new collective agreement.
The conclusion only came after the sport’s first work stoppage in more than two decades. As commissioner Rob Manfred noted when he announced the deal Thursday, there is still work to be done to smooth things over after what has been a contentious fight.
“They locked us out and it took some time for discussions to continue,” Voit said of the delay after the lockdown began on December 2. “It was frustrating on our end, but we were ready to go anytime.”
Voit’s concern wasn’t just for his teammates.
“The fans are everything in this game,” Voit said after a practice session at a local high school, where he was joined by teammates DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge, along with other MLB players.
“We’re the product on the pitch, so we just want to be there for them,” Voit said. “We just didn’t want to lose fans and keep pushing that and keep pushing that. They deserve that we are already there. We still got to 162 [games]. It was a common goal for both parties. »
“Everyone wants to play,” LeMahieu said. “It’s also a business.”
Now they must pass physical exams, with a mandatory report date on Sunday before a shortened spring training.
“I had a feeling [a deal was close] a few times already, so I didn’t get my hopes up [Thursday] before it’s official,” LeMahieu said. “Now it’s all about figuring it all out, how to get down here, when to get down here and when to start. I’m just excited to start over.
And after the dust settled, several Yankees did on Friday what they have done regularly for the past few weeks during the MLB lockout: they played ball, which they have been doing for a month and more in order to stay in shape if agreed.
They’re not alone, which is why LeMahieu doesn’t think the abbreviated spring training — which will last less than four weeks instead of the typical six — will affect the game as much.
“I don’t think it will have such a big impact,” LeMahieu said. “I think everyone has worked and is ready to go. I don’t think any of us sit around and watch TV in the offseason. I think everyone is physically ready to go.
Voit said that not all preparations for the offseason are the same as the real thing, which is what he is looking forward to.
“We try to do everything we can to stay ready,” Voit said of live batting practice and ground balls on the field. “I want to put my baseball pants on and get in the batter’s box and have one at bat.”
He pointed to the truncated Spring Training 2.0 of 2020, after COVID-19 shut down the sport for three months as proof players would be fine on opening day April 7.
The process began in earnest on Thursday, when team officials were able to recontact the players for the first time since the start of the work stoppage.
“The coaches have all called [Thursday] night and it was good to talk to them and have a plan,” Voit said. “Everyone was in good spirits because we could play baseball again.”