The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism hosted its World Series Rewind Tuesday, a virtual event that invited Maryland baseball alumni who played in the 2020 World Series to discuss their experiences playing amid a pandemic.
The webinar was headlined by Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe and Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Adam Kolarek — both of whom participated in the World Series — as well as ESPN reporter Tim Kurkjian.
Kurkjian, who has covered about 40 World Series, said this was the first time in 40 years he was unable to watch the World Series in person.
“I watched the World Series from a cafeteria at ESPN,” Kurkjian said. “Not exactly like being at the ballpark.”
According to Kolarek, who was traded to the Dodgers in 2019, the coronavirus pandemic offered a distinct set of challenges, particularly when competing for a World Series ring.
Per the MLB’s coronavirus restrictions, both the Rays and the Dodgers were required to “bubble” in the same hotel facility, causing the two teams to run into each other, according to Kolarek.
“You have to wake up and go downstairs and see everybody you just played against,” he said.
Kolarek, who appeared in four postseason games, explained that while living near his opponent was a big adjustment, the pandemic didn’t affect his mindset on the baseball field.
“I think in the moment … I felt just about as normal because you’re just locked in and really focused,” Kolarek said.
Lowe, who finished the shortened 2020 season with 14 home runs and 37 RBIs, said adjusting to the limited dining options was another obstacle.
“You couldn’t go to a restaurant. Everything was served to you in a plastic box with plastic silverware and got delivered to your door,” Lowe said. “That to me was the weirdest part of being in the bubble.”
Lowe, who had struggled at the plate throughout the postseason, caught fire in Game 2 of the World Series, when he became the first player in World Series history to hit two opposite-field home runs in a single game.
After hitting a home run in the first inning, Lowe faced Dodgers pitcher Dustin May in the fifth inning, where he swung on an 0-2 pitch that Lowe knew “had a chance.”
“As soon as I started [rounding the bases], I’m pretty sure I blacked out,” Lowe said. “There wasn’t a whole lot going through my head.”
Throughout the webinar, both Lowe and Kolarek credited their time in College Park as preparation for the intensity that comes during a World Series.
“When I first joined Maryland, I was instantly the underdog,” Kolarek said. “So I think that kind of taught me at a very young age … what it means to outwork your opponent.”
And for Lowe, it was at the Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium that he learned how to build his body. He also felt it taught him the discipline required to be a major league star.
“Coming into college, I think I weighed [150 pounds] soaking wet, and they got on me pretty quickly about that,” Lowe said, who has since put on over 20 pounds to become one of the most powerful hitters in the MLB.
“[Being at Maryland] made me grow up pretty quickly,” Lowe said.