For Nick Ahmed, Diamondbacks, 'We just want to play'

PHOENIX – This is a common refrain, these days, and it’s clearly echoed by every baseball player in America. “We just want to play,” was the declaration from Arizona Diamondbacks’ shortstop Nick Ahmed in a Zoom video conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

The uncertainty and doubt which swept across his face was telling. With the commonality of wait and wait, and wait some more, Ahmed was quick to articulate the dilemma. Above all, it’s the boredom and monotony which fills his days and uncertainty about the future.

Still, there is the hope that the season will commence, at some point, and succeed on some level. While many scenarios portray a season of “x” number of games, a post-season structure of some kind, “time” earned by players, and how fans will react, there are also physical concerns.

Some suggestions offer a time window of two to three weeks. That’s the period from which players could get back into “baseball shape,” pitchers in a position to take the mound and the game resume on a level familiar to all. For Ahmed, that time window could be condensed.

“I take pride in being in shape, but there are other considerations,” Ahmed said during that Zoom session. “For me, I don’t think the time would be longer than anyone else. Look, no one wants an extended spring training and I know I can be ready with 10 to 20 at-bats. Pitchers may take a little longer.”

With discussion accentuating as many games as possible. Ahmed pointed out that players could be open to just about anything. That would include playing doubleheaders, playing in empty stadiums and even wearing protective masks, as players in Japan have begun.

One detail is clear, Ahmed pointed out. A summer without baseball is nearly incomprehensible.

“At this point, we’re about five, six days into the season,” he added. “The hope is we will not lose a significant amount of games. The thought of no baseball for the entire year is something we don’t want to think about. Ultimately, we want to play.”

If there is any player anxious to get back on the diamond, it is Ahmed. The 30-year-old out of East Longmeadow, Mass.  is coming off his most productive offensive season. That’s not to mention he earned Gold Gloves in the back-to-back 2018 and 2019 seasons and is regarded as one of the best defensive shortstops in the game.

For the 2019 season, Ahmed hit. 254, slammed 33 doubles, six triples, 19 homers and drove in 82 runs. Except for doubles, all were career bests. Ahmed also hit 33 doubles in the 2018 season.

A second-round pick by Atlanta in the 2011 draft, Ahmed was sent to the Diamondbacks in the Justin Upton deal in January, 2013. Because he was high pick, Ahmed expressed sympathy for the recent ruling on limiting the 2020 draft to five rounds.

“How many guys in the majors were drafted in the lower rounds,” he asked rhetorically. “This will really impact players and not give many guys a reasonable chance to make it to the big leagues.”

For now, Ahmed sticks to his routine of working out in a personal gym at home and staying in shape. The day Major League Baseball draws that curtain and declares, “play ball” cannot come, for Ahmed and his teammates, soon enough.