Kevin Kiermaier isn’t going to let a pandemic stop him from celebrating

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On Sunday the Tampa Bay Rays won in dramatic walkoff fashion thanks to Kevin Kiermaier who delivered the game-winning triple in the bottom of the tenth. It was a big moment and, likely because they were caught up in the heat of that moment, he and his teammates high-fived and hugged and all of that.

Which, on some level is totally understandable. So much of what we do is automatic. How often do you find yourself absently touching your face these days, even after months of being told not to? How many other times have you caught yourself doing things that are not exactly prudent in the age of COVID-19, only to remind yourself you weren’t supposed to do that. I think all of us have been there, and it has to be much, much harder if it’s something (a) fueled by adrenaline; and (b) is something you’ve done constantly since you were a little kid.

So, no, not gonna throw much shade at ballplayers for spontaneous violations of social distancing. All I’d ask, I guess, is that they be aware of what they should be doing and at least make an effort to try to break old, ingrained habits. To show that, no matter what the heart and spleen want, the brain is aware that they can’t do the same things they’ve always done.

Let’s check in with Kevin Kiermaier on that score. From the Tampa Bay Times, in which he talked about that celebration on Sunday:

“I don’t regret it one bit, I really don’t. I knew what I was doing . . . I’m one of those guys where I’m trying to do everything in my power to keep myself motivated and the others around me, and I want everyone to always remember how much fun winning is . . . You only have so long to play this game and I just choose not to let a pandemic or anything totally affect how I go about my business or my attitude or my demeanor. And I just hope it’s a contagious one where those fun times that we have, I hope that everyone is able to have as many of those as possible given the circumstances . . .

. . . But I love playing this game, I love having fun and I don’t plan on stopping. Maybe I should cut the hugs down from here on out, but walk-offs are fun and to have a huge bounce-back win like that (Sunday), it was hard to keep my emotions in and I know a lot of other guys thought the exact same thing.”

Extra points for the use of the word “contagious” there. Which, if offered by a guy better known for his wit and irony than Kiermaier is, would cause me to tip my cap. Alas.

Thankfully for the Rays, the article is full of team officials noting that, no, they cannot be violating the social distancing rules — which prohibit hugs and high fives and dog piles and all of that — even if the heat of the moment inspires them. They seem to realize as a team that they have to change habits and be better about this stuff. Especially given that they’re currently playing in a state that is the world’s number one hot spot for the pandemic.

Hopefully, someone can get through to Kiermaier on this point as well.