Justin Turner’s World Series COVID-19 Scare and Why It Can Be a Lesson for All of Us

Photo by Ronald Martinez

As the clock struck 9:30 PM on Tuesday, October 27, 2020 in Arlington, Texas, the Los Angeles Dodgers grabbed a 2–1 lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 of the World Series. Moments later, the long-time star and well-known leader on and off the field Justin Turner lifted a deep fly-ball into left field. While the crowd erupted, the ball died on the warning track for the second out of the inning. Although it was only the sixth, the Dodgers, who had just grabbed their first advantage of the night, found themselves only nine defensive outs away from winning it all.

Photo by Kelly Gavin

Rightfully so, attention shifted to Julio Urías as he entered out of LA’s bullpen looking to shutdown a Game 6 victory after Brusdar Graterol got the first two outs of the seventh. Urías struck-out Yandy Díaz looking to send the game to the home half with the Dodgers still in-front, but they failed to add insurance. When LA took the field for the eighth, their stud 3rd baseman wasn’t out there. Young Edwin Ríos was announced without reason as Turner’s replacement, and he was immediately tested. Fresh into the game, Ríos calmly fielded Hunter Renfroe’s broken-bat grounder and fired across the diamond for the second out. Urías subsequently struck-out Brandon Lowe for the third out.

Photo by Tom Pennington

Any concerns towards Turner’s whereabouts were overshadowed when Mookie Betts added a run for the Dodgers with a solo homer off of Pete Fairbanks to leadoff LA’s half of the eighth. Now pitching up 3–1, Urías continued to overpower Rays hitters in the ninth. He worked a soft fly-out of Manuel Margot, punched-out Mike Brosseau, and got Willy Adames looking on three pitches to secure the Dodgers World Championship.

Photo by Tom Pennington

During LA’s celebration on the field, it was announced that Turner had tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in his immediate exit. It was further announced on FOX’s broadcast that Turner, upon learning the news, was moved into self-isolation. However, as many tears of joy flowed in a year filled with merely sadness and struggles, Turner was spotted on the field with his wife, Kourtney, and the rest of the team  —  taking pictures, sharing hugs, and not following COVID-19 protocols.

Photo by Ronald Martinez

Turner is a prominent individual throughout Major League Baseball and the City of Angels thanks to his premier selflessness on his team and in the community. He and Kourtney run their own successful charity foundation, the Justin Turner Foundation, whose mission is to support homeless veterans, children (and their families) battling illnesses, and various youth baseball organizations. Although Turner also sits atop the Dodgers history books with many notable records, such as being the team’s all-time leader in postseason base hits, his off the field awards are what truly shape his character. He and Kourtney are proud recipients of numerous honors, topped off by the LA City Council crowning January 22 annually as “Justin Turner Day.” Additionally, Turner is a frequent nominee to represent his team for the Roberto Clemente Award  —  a prized possession that is given each year to the player who best exemplifies baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement, and a contribution to one’s team. Since breaking out in 2014, Turner has been recognized as one of the league’s best all-around hitters. He’s been a remarkable performer in October his entire career, but in 2020, his defense and prowess with the bat shined especially bright as the Dodgers made a World Series run.

Photo by Randi Radcliffe

So why would such a kindhearted individual like Turner give fans a bit of worry during a time of pure elation and possibly put his teammates and their families at risk? Longtime Dodgers season ticket holder and diehard fan Randi Radcliffe (@randi_radcliffe on Twitter), who is pictured above with the 2020 NLCS and World Series MVP Corey Seager, gave her thoughts on the situation. Similar to almost everybody, Randi said she felt confused and failed to understand “how [Turner] was able to be allowed on the field for six innings before MLB did anything about it.” She also couldn’t grasp how Turner could have contracted the virus in what was allegedly a players and families only bubble: “my guess would be from just being within close range to so many people, even if that means the fans being there and the virus somehow making it from a fan to a player. It’s either that or someone broke protocol. It seems like those are the only two options.” Randi also made it clear that she wasn’t against Turner joining his teammates on the field post-game “because he’s been such a huge part of this team, and he deserved to be out there celebrating.” Additionally, she expressed that “after learning more about the situation and knowing [Turner’s] teammates wanted him to come back out there, I understand why it was such a difficult situation for him. And to be honest, I feel like we all would’ve done the same thing if we were him.” Randi proceeded to speak for many when said that she felt the situation was handled very poorly by all parties, “the Dodgers and Turner included,” but that the situation also “shows how difficult [the pandemic] has been on everyone.” She said at the same time, it shows “how dangerous it is to even be around someone for a short amount of time and how much damage that could cause with spreading the virus.” Randi concluded the interview with the statement that winning the World Series is “the best feeling I’ve ever experienced as a sports fan, and I can’t wait to experience it again with the fans at some point.”

Photo by Smiley N. Pool

Randi touched upon some very important, and still unanswered, questions. It’s still a complete mystery as to how Turner contracted the virus, and even more so, how he was the only one to do so. Turner, along with his teammates, coaching staff, and family members of all who agreed to remain in the bubble, were isolated together. While both the Rays and the Dodgers were at only Globe Life Field without travel for the World Series, LA played their entire NLDS, NLCS, and WS in Arlington. The ballpark and the hotel campus, shared by both squads, were the only two locations permitted during the so-called “playoff bubble.” Everyone in the process was tested for COVID-19 daily, and the bubble seemed to be an effective method of countering the virus when three weeks rolled by without a single positive test. With no evidence showing that anyone broke protocol, it remains unknown how MLB’s only positive test came in the final few hours of a month-long isolation.

Photo by Sean M. Haffey

Turner initially didn’t re-join his team on the field. Minutes after the final out, he tweeted: “Can’t believe I couldn’t be out there to celebrate with my guys!” He added that he felt great and had no symptoms. The following morning, October 28, the newly-throned World Champions, with the exception of both Turner’s, were cleared to return home — they all tested negative. The Turner’s remained in isolation until they officially were negative, and once it was safe to do so, they returned home on a private charter flight.

Photo by Tim Heitman

Nearly a month has passed since the incident. Of course, this incident pairs with the Dodgers first championship since 1988, a memory that many will hold on to for the rest of their life. With every mistake comes a lesson, and what came as a result of Turner’s actions can teach us all something: even though it might not truly be necessary, take care of yourself and those around you no matter what during a pandemic and times where health and well-being are paramount. Thankfully, all are healthy and in good spirits. If that wasn’t already enough, Turner, the rest of the Dodgers, and the city of Los Angeles are World Series Champions.

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