And like many others, he’s looking to see what other leagues do, particularly in Asia, where certain leagues have tried to get underway amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Hale has more insight than most into the situation; he played part of the 2018 season for the Hanwha Eagles in the Korean Baseball Organization after being released by the Yankees during a season in which he was designated for assignment four times. After the final DFA, Hale decided to try the KBO in July instead of being sent to the minors when he was claimed by Minnesota.
He’s been back with the Yankees since last year, but is keeping a close eye on what his former league is doing. That’s made easier thanks to the fact that a former Hanwha teammate, Jared Hoying, is about to enter his third full season with the Eagles.
“I’ve asked him, ‘What’s it look like over there?’ ” said Hale, who is set to fight for a roster spot if the MLB season ever gets underway. “Is there a date you’re shooting for? Because I want to be able to have something to shoot for here. I don’t want the season getting canceled at all. I don’t want to lose a whole year at my age  — or any age. The most important thing is to keep people safe. At least in the offseason, you know when you’ll play. Now we have no idea.”
According to reports from South Korea last week — including Yonhap News — the potential date had been pushed back from April 21 to late April or early May. The league has discussed shortening the season from 144 games to as few as 108, with the possibility of playing into mid-November, a month later than normal.
As of earlier this week, teams can only play scrimmages and aren’t permitted to travel.
“He just recently flew back to Korea and had to quarantine there for 14 days,’’ Hale said of Hoying, who last played in the majors in 2017. “He said he has no idea when they’re gonna start.’’
The eagerness to get the season underway in South Korea is somewhat expected, Hale said.
“I’ve seen pictures of players in masks, which wouldn’t be a surprise, because they take baseball very seriously over there,’’ said Hale, 32. “They live and breathe it. Not that we don’t here, but it’s just different over there.”
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Hale played for Hanwha, in Daejeon, for three months. He made a dozen starts and then signed with the Yankees again last season.
The experience of playing away from home, Hale said, “gave me a lot of respect for players who don’t speak English as a first language here. It’s tough.”
And there were the differences in the game.
“They have two pitching rubbers on the mound,’’ Hale said. “One is normal and the other is a little bit below so you’re not digging holes.”
At this point, his time spent in the KBO gives him some connections that will help somewhat to predict when MLB might get started again.
He’s currently at his home in Marietta, Ga., with his wife, as well as Ryan Casteel, a catcher Hale played with in the Rockies’ system, who is now in the Braves organization. The setup works out pretty well for Hale.
“I told him if he caught my bullpens and threw with me, we’d be good to go, so he and his wife are here,’’ Hale said.
Georgia recently instituted a “shelter in place” order, which will make training more difficult.
“The Yankees have been great, checking on our health and training,’’ Hale said of the layoff. “In your head, though, you always have a date to get ready for, but my guess is as good as yours. I don’t want to throw 10 months of bullpens, but none of us have ever experienced this before. We’re making it up as we go along.”