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The Padres' Fernando Tatis Jr. is leading by example. Courtesy photo
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Sports Talk: Admiration for Padres’ Tatis can’t be masked

We’re talking Padres and why wouldn’t a mask be part of the conversation?

Except when leading into this bizzaro baseball season, catcher Austin Hedges’ tools of ignorance aren’t the focal point.

Usually, we wonder if Hedges, a delightful defender, will hit his weight.

Instead, it’s wait-and-see for players, coaches and fans to learn if the MLB is going to be A-OK in an abbreviated year dominated by COVID-19.

The dreadful disease which has killed more than 130,000 Americans, which includes nearly 400 in San Diego County, isn’t showing signs of taking a pitch.

It’s the opposite with positive tests rising throughout our region and somehow that leads us to a 21-year-old shortstop for guidance.

The Padres’ most exciting player is also among their most cerebral.

“Credit to Tatis,” said Jayce Tingler, the Padres’ rookie skipper.

We toast Tatis, as in Fernando Jr., too. The most electric Padre in recent memory is piping in with the best of advice to slow the spread of COVID-19: Wear a mask!

“I just feel it’s more protection for other people to wear it around,” he said. “I feel my (teammates) are more protected that way from me if something happens or from each other.”

Tatis gets it and maybe him traipsing around the Petco Park diamond rocking a mask will influence others.

While Manny Machado is the hired-gun star of the team, it’s the engaging Tatis who has connected more with the Padres Nation.

Why?

It’s how Tatis goes about his business which endears him to others. He dives right, he leaps left and he goes all-out in proving that he is all-in to be a Padres standout now and well into the future.

So if Tatis can lure doubters into a world where empathy and concern for others is the real game, just maybe the Padres’ summer camp will have an off-the-field impact.

In a video conference call with reporters, while donning a mask, Tatis told his tale.

“It’s not easy when you’re running and stuff like that,” said Tatis, who is in constant motion between the lines. “So far, I’m just going to wear mine.”

MLB is wearing thin on many after a three-month argument over who gets paid what delivered terrible optics in the midst of a national emergency. Even after all the horse-trading between the owners and players, it’s been anything but a smooth ride since practices resumed.

Tests are unavailable or delayed in being scrutinized. Players are told one thing only to see plans for their protection unfulfilled, leading to doubt the sport’s non-bubble approach in resuming the games will fly.

That’s why numerous players are opting out, willing to leave millions on the table for the sake of their, and their family’s, health.

Mike Trout, the Los Angeles Angels’ superstar, is training with the team — sporting a mask, we might add — but has yet to sign off on the season with his wife expecting their first child next month.

This 60-game sprint of a campaign, for the Padres, is scheduled to start on July 24 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. But the prospects of that happening relies on players not testing positive and infecting others.

COVID-19 is on everyone’s mind which has led public health officials to encourage all to cover their faces. That scientific knowledge hopefully would have citizens looping a mask string over their lobes, although the message to some has come in one ear and gone out the other.

“(Tatis) somehow finds a way to make it look extremely cool,” Tingler said. “Hats off to him.”

Masks on for everyone else.

“I just want to feel more safe,” Tatis said, “all the way around.”