My Life in the Age of COVID: Red Sox Prospect Leon Paulino
We asked a Boston native and newly signed Red Sox outfielder how he's coping with this unprecedented sports shutdown.
As the COVID-19 pandemic upends every aspect of Boston life, we’re checking in with some local residents to learn how they’re processing our new normal. They’ll share serious thoughts on their concerns for the city—and yes, some silly recommendations on what to binge-watch, too. For the rest of the series, click here.
Outfielder Leon Paulino just turned 19. The Lawrence native was only drafted by the Red Sox Gulf Coast League last year, making this his first spring training with the team, and his first season. He spent his last year of high school in Miami at a baseball academy, training every day from 8-3 and taking classes online. He hopes to eventually get called up to the majors, but now the entire sports world has been postponed until further notice, and it’s been less than ideal timing for someone whose career is just starting.
What is your biggest concern right now?
My concern right now is, with baseball, to be consistent, it has a lot to do with timing. That comes with a lot of repetition facing real-life pitching. Right now since we’re not playing, we can swing as much as we want, lift, run, but we can’t get that timing because we’re in the house waiting on the season. So a lot of players are not going to be in the best shape when it comes to hitting the ball—that’s really concerning for a baseball player.
How have you been coping so far?
I’ve been good, thank God. I have a big yard. I live in Lawrence, Massachusetts and I have a batting cage, so I’ll kick it with my dad sometimes. And then downstairs in my basement, I have a gym, so I’ll be able to lift. But it’s still hard. You want to go to a real field. I can like, shortcut half the things, but I can’t throw a long toss or things like that.
Do you feel a little bit robbed by this whole situation given that you just got drafted last year?
I kind of do, yes. But it’s Mother Nature. You can’t really blame anybody—there’s no one to blame. It’s just bad luck. Technically, this is my first season, my first spring training season. I’m a young guy trying to get in shape, get experience as a player, and now this happens and my first spring training goes down the drain. So it’s a little hard.
What about the team and your buddies on the team? Do you know how they’ve been coping?
We’ve been doing good, thank God. The Red Sox have done a really good job communicating with us. We have an app where they send a message to everybody every day and we notify them if we’re feeling good or feeling sick.
Walk me through your average daily routine right now, starting with the first thing you do when you wake up.
When I got drafted, they made me wake up at six in the morning every day. I don’t want to lose that routine. I don’t want to go back when the season starts and be tired because I’m sleeping differently. So I wake up at 6 a.m. every day, I eat breakfast, and then I go straight to my gym downstairs in my basement and start lifting. From there, I’ll take a little break. With my dad, I’ll do simple things like swings off the tee and soft toss.
Thank God I have a cage in my backyard. After that, we’re pretty much done, because [my dad] can’t really do more. And with the weather, sometimes it gets really cold and you don’t want to injure your body in the cold. I’ll just try to watch TV with my parents. And I have a little sister, so I keep her entertained by playing board games with her, chess, things like that. Sometimes I want to work so hard because I want to be the best shape that I’ll even lift twice.
What do you miss most about your former, pre-social distancing routine?
What I miss the most is just being with my teammates, with my coaching staff—just getting advice from them every day and learning. Especially being a young ballplayer, I try to get as much information as I can.
What have you learned about yourself during this unprecedented period?
I’ve learned a couple of things. I’ve learned to be a little bit more patient in life. Things happen and you have to look at everything in a positive way. Not everything comes fast in baseball—things take time. I won’t have success right away. It doesn’t come like that.
How have you been navigating relationships and staying connected?
Well, I’m with my family in Boston, so that’s the good part. I talk to my teammates. There’s a lot of guys that are international signings from the Dominican Republic in the Red Sox organization. And me being Dominican, it is a little concerning because the coronavirus is spreading over there a lot. I don’t know how good the hospitals are. From my experience, they’re not as advanced as the ones here in the U.S.—that’s a little scary for them. I just wish the best for them and hope they’re all safe.
What has been a task, hobby, or back-burner project that you’ve been wanting to pursue, that you are now finally going to get to?
I’d say reading. Reading the Bible, in general. I have a Bible my dad gave me over spring training to read before I go to sleep. It’s been working because it keeps me focused. I don’t want to be watching TV or on social media too much.
What have you been keeping in your fridge for comfort food?
My mom, she buys a lot of chicken. Me being Dominican and Puerto Rican, I love rice, beans, and chicken. Right now I get to eat that every day. So that’s something good compared to when I was down in Fort Myers for the Red Sox in spring training, and I was eating a lot of Chipotle and things like that. So now I get to eat my mom’s homemade cooked food.
What’s been your go-to binge-watch, read, or listen to take your mind off things?
I don’t really watch TV that much, but when I do, it’s mostly MLB Network. But because there’s nothing new now, they’re just replaying old shows.
What’s a habit you’ll use this time to develop?
I want to develop my patience. Baseball is a sport where you have to both be aggressive and patient, but I’m more of an aggressive person than patient. But all of this, making me wait, I think is going to work in my favor when I get back to the field.
What advice would you give to others?
That life is challenging at times. And there’s a lot of obstacles that get in your way. The way you react to it is going to define how you’re going to be later on. So just be positive, stay strong, and stick around. Good things will happen.