As he went through big league camp for the first time last spring, Sean Hjelle kept a close eye on flights from Phoenix back to Richmond, Virginia, constantly bookmarking the best options. But Hjelle wasn’t preparing for a likely trip to Double-A to start the year.
The right-hander was waiting for the birth of his first child, a son due to be born April 1 in Richmond, where his wife is from. That was two days before the Giants were supposed to send their minor leaguers to affiliates, but the spring never got that far. COVID-19 shut the sport down and threw Hjelle’s carefully crafted plans out the window.
When camp stopped, Hjelle and catcher Matt Winn waited a day to make sure nothing would change and then hopped in their trucks and formed a caravan back to Virginia. It took them 32 hours on the road, but Hjelle was home in time for the birth of George Edward, who not surprisingly entered the world at 9 pounds, 2 ounces. That kicked off a summer filled with highs, but also some disappointment.
Like the rest of the organization’s top pitching prospects, Hjelle was left off the roster for Spring Training 2.0 and the alternate site. He spent what was to be a crucial season in his development throwing simulated innings in an empty ballpark. But he also unexpectedly got to be home for most of his son’s first year.
“It’s kind of a…