Didi Gregorius On Partnering With Johns Hopkins University To Fight COVID-19

Free-agent shortstop Didi Gregorius has partnered with Johns Hopkins University to encourage people to participate in a plasma trial if they recently tested positive for COVID-19 or were exposed — and he’s not ruling out signing with the club that would strengthen his partnership with Hopkins.

Gregorius has chronic kidney disease, so he wore a mask throughout the 2020 season, whether he was on the field or not. Gregorius, who hit .284/.339/.488 in 60 games for the Philadelphia Phillies last summer, has joined the fight against COVID-19 as he sifts through potential destinations for the 2021 season.

Hopkins is studying whether plasma containing antibodies from those who have recovered from COVID-19 is effective in battling the disease. Those who have tested positive in the past six days can take part in a clinical trial to help determine whether an infusion of plasma is helpful in recovery. Those who were exposed but have no symptoms can take part in a trial to figure out whether an infusion of plasma is an effective preventative measure against COVID-19. The trials are for people 18 and older.

All the details, including how to apply for a trial, can be found on covidplasmatrial.org.

“The vaccine is coming out, but we don’t know how quick it can be out there for everybody to get,” Gregorius said on Glenn Clark Radio Dec. 17. “Maybe I get it and you didn’t, so I think this trial can actually help you get to that point until you get the vaccine so you can be safe. It’s a really great thing that we’ve partnered up [to do]. I think more people should actually try to do the plasma trial to go and … help each other out.”

“They shouldn’t feel ashamed or guilty,” Gregorius added. “That’s one thing, too: Don’t feel ashamed or guilty going in. It’s one helping the other. So you come in, you can help the next person with your antibodies and all that stuff — that is what they are looking for.”

Orioles fans know Gregorius from his time with the New York Yankees. He played shortstop in the Bronx from 2015-2019, proving to be a worthy successor for Derek Jeter. He hit .269/.313/.446 with 97 home runs during those five years. He then moved on to Philadelphia, where he posted 22 extra-base hits, true to his reputation as a power-hitting middle infielder.

Orioles fans are well aware of that power stroke. Gregorius, who turns 31 in February, has slashed .308/.355/.474 with 29 extra-base hits against Baltimore. But he has no connection to the city, other than being friends with former Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop. Why the partnership with Hopkins?

“I met with some doctors and all that stuff. They’re talking about diseases and how they can prevent them or shorten them,” Gregorius said. “You always hear about them because they’re trustworthy, so that’s a university you want to be connected with to get information and get the information out to other people with my platform that I’m using right now so other people can be aware and have more information.”

And what about signing with the Orioles this offseason and being a long fly ball away from Hopkins in 2021? Baltimore recently traded Jose Iglesias, creating an opening at the position. General manager Mike Elias has expressed interest in bringing in shortstop help this offseason.

“That would be really cool,” said Gregorius, who will likely command well more than the Orioles are willing to spend. “You never know what can happen. You never know.”

Gregorius also touched on several other topics, including …

What it means that MLB got through the 2020 season:

“We have shown last year that we can play the 60 games and also be safe. You know there have been a couple people that have been exposed to it, but we can show that we can still play through all of that and then still be safe, and the fans that are always there supporting us at the stadium can still watch us on TV. I don’t think anybody wanted to stay inside the whole time, so I think that having sports on TV during the pandemic and everything actually eased it a little bit, especially when you see some players wearing masks. I think that should be a sign that maybe I should wear a mask, too, because the athletes are doing it. It’s just us using our platform so other people can see there’s nothing wrong with wearing the right mask.”

On the importance of wearing a mask:

“I can’t force somebody to do something they don’t want to do, but all I can say is the more you do to help yourself, you will help others too because you fight it and try to stay away, keep your distance and do all that stuff. [If] the other people in the community and … everybody around you are doing the same thing, we can team up and battle this thing quick. It’s not going to change overnight, but it’s going to take some time to go. I think that’s the best way that I think I can explain. Help each other go in the right direction.”

On his friendship with Jonathan Schoop (though Gregorius is from the Netherlands, he plays on the same international teams as Schoop, who is from Curacao):

“I think he’s two years younger than me, and he was playing against us as a young age — me and [Andrelton] Simmons and some other players, so if that doesn’t show you that that kid has a really big heart — and he hasn’t changed. That just shows you what type of person he is. And playing against him and talking with him all those years that I’ve been there or texting him and all that stuff, you see the growth. He didn’t get much of the publicity, but he’s one of those guys, when he was out there, that play 162 games for you no matter what. I think a lot of people appreciate that. I’ve seen him and he’s still growing and getting better and better every year and still proving himself, that he can still play the game. That’s really one big thing that I see from him since we were kids.”

For more from Gregorius, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Philadelphia Phillies  

Luke Jackson

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