When the Toronto Blue Jays kick off the 2019 season less than a fortnight from now, there will be less Fortnite in the clubhouse.
The Jays will have a cut-off time for video games and television before games this season, manager Charlie Montoyo told reporters in Dunedin, Fla. on Monday. The details were still being worked out, he said, but the new rule was a player-driven initiative, after a leadership group made up of 10 of the team’s veterans shared concerns that screen time was a distraction last year.
“We’re going to play less, I know that,” Montoyo said, according to MLB.com. “We have a rule. We already met with all of the players and there’s not going to be that many people playing video games. That’s our rule. That’s not my rule, that’s our clubhouse rule.”
Video games — particularly Fortnite — have become more prominent, and more problematic, in professional sports of late.
ESPN writer Jeff Passan reported on Monday that former Phillies first baseman Carlos Santana, now with the Cleveland Indians, smashed a clubhouse television late last September when he discovered a couple of his teammates playing Fortnite during a game against the Atlanta Braves in the midst of a lengthy losing streak.
“We come and lose too many games, and I feel like they weren’t worried about it,” Santana told Passan. “Weren’t respecting their teammates or coaches or the staff or the [front] office. It’s not my personality. But I’m angry because I want to make it good.”
THUMBS UP: Major League Baseball’s Players’ Association head Tony Clark praised the Jays for giving their minor-league players a raise of more than 50 per cent.
Ben Cherington, Toronto’s vice president of baseball operations, told The Athletic on Sunday that the club is in the process of finalizing a pay boost for all of its minor-league players, including some who made as little as $1,100 a month in recent seasons.
“I’m glad there has been some dialogue and a decision made in the last week to suggest that guys are going to be compensated differently than they may have been in the past,” Clark said Monday, according to the Associated Press. “We’ll have to see how other teams either do or don’t fall in line behind them.”
Minor-league players are not paid during spring training or the off-season and some who didn’t sign lucrative signing bonuses say they struggle to afford meals, rent and basic equipment like cleats and bats.
Montoyo, a minor-league manager for 18 seasons, called his club’s decision “awesome.”
“Hopefully that gives an idea to everybody else in baseball,” he said.
GAME TIME: Clayton Richard gave up two runs on three hits in six innings in Toronto’s 3-2 win over Detroit in Dunedin on Monday. Dalton Pompey had two RBIs for the Jays and Teoscar Hernandez hit his first spring. Trent Thornton and Bud Norris combined for three clean innings to close out the game.
Laura Armstrong is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @lauraarmy