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Andre Dawson is seeing the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic from a vantage point many sports fans would not expect of a Baseball Hall of Famer and former National League MVP.

The longtime star for the Montreal Expos and Chicago Cubs has spent the past dozen years as a mortician.

While running his own funeral parlor, Dawson has recently had to shorten services at his facility’s chapel and limit them to no more than 10 people.

“It’s very sad,” he said Thursday to the Associated Press. “It’s very sad. Because people mourn and grieve differently and they’re not getting through that process as they would under normal circumstances. You see a lot of hurt and pain.”

Andre Dawson shows emotion while wearing Montreal Expos apparel as he is honored by the Washington Nationals in 2010. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
Andre Dawson shows emotion while wearing Montreal Expos apparel as he is honored by the Washington Nationals in 2010. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
Dawson, 65, has owned and operated Paradise Memorial Funeral Home in his hometown of Miami since 2008. A few years after he retired from baseball in 1996, he joined a group of investors his brother organized to buy a different funeral home, then took an even bigger step into the business.

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Dawson did not expect to actually run Paradise Memorial, but “that role sort of fell into my lap,” he told AARP last year. With the same dedication to his craft that enabled a 21-year major league career, Dawson “threw myself into it, body and soul,” despite the unlikely nature of his new line of work.

“Growing up, I could have never envisioned this,” he told the Associated Press. “I was actually afraid of the dead when I was a kid. When it came to funeral homes and seeing someone in a casket, it would remind me of being young and going to see a real scary horror movie and not being able to sleep at night. That’s where I was. But you grow and change with the times.”

Since March, the coronavirus has brought change to nearly every facet of American life. Social distancing — which has brought baseball and other sports to a standstill — has helped slow the spread of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, but its toll has nevertheless been devastating, with over a million cases and at least 62,560 deaths in the United States as of Friday.

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There have been more than 12,000 confirmed cases in Miami-Dade County, which has had the highest death count, 352, of any county in Florida (per the Miami Herald). Dawson’s funeral home has handled six deaths from covid-19, and he has talked to his two dozen employees about the possibility of that number greatly increasing.

“It’s stressful because of the times and the uncertainty,” Dawson told the AP. “But this is what we signed up for. As challenging as it can be, we just pray and hope we’re prepared for it.”

Despite his fame and stature from his baseball career, Dawson has immersed himself in the day-to-day operations of his funeral home, for which his wife of 42 years serves as office manager. He goes to homes to pick up the deceased, drives hearses, carries caskets and, as shown in a 2018 USA Today profile, even mops the floor.

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These days, Dawson is doing his work while wearing a mask. That has a limiting effect on how many people recognize the tall man helping with their funeral arrangements, but he said his focus is on the needs of those around him.

“You never know where God is going to lead you,” Dawson told USA Today, “but wherever it leads you, you have to be prepared. When this first fell into my lap, I prayed on it. I thought, ‘How am I really going to pull this off without having the background or knowing anything really about the industry?’ But I wanted to make this as good a facility as I possibly could, and I’m proud of it. It’s important to me because this is a product the community needs.”

Andre Dawson, 65, has owned and operated Paradise Memorial Funeral Home since 2008. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)
Andre Dawson, 65, has owned and operated Paradise Memorial Funeral Home since 2008. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)
If Dawson did not know the value of hard work before he embarked on his major league career, he certainly learned it while rebounding from more than a dozen knee surgeries that eventually sapped the athleticism of the player known as “The Hawk.” During his early seasons with the Expos, who played on a notoriously unforgiving surface at Olympic Stadium, he was the epitome of a five-tool player and is just one of five players in major league history with at least 400 home runs and 300 stolen bases, alongside Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltrán.

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The survey that identified congestion as the number one problem in residents’ minds was completed for the city’s new transportation plan, ConnectCOS, a document intended to build on the recently finished comprehensive plan and promote safety for drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and all other modes of transportation, Roberts said.

The updated transportation plan is coming together at a time when travel is getting more deadly in the Colorado Springs. During 2020, 50 people died in traffic crashes. Of those, 15 involved motorcycles, 12 were pedestrian fatalities, and three crashes involved bicycles, according to Colorado Springs police. The previous record was 48 traffic deaths in 2018, the Gazette previously reported.

City officials could not explain why 2020 was more deadly, said Todd Frisbie, engineering manager for traffic operations. But the city staff is breaking down safety and traffic crashes by region and plans to present those trends at an upcoming meeting, he said.

Transportation needs are growing and changing in Colorado Springs, and many factors play into why traffic deaths are increasing, city spokeswoman Kim Melchor said.

“We are trying to work to create safer travel, more efficient travel,” she said.

Ultimately the plan will identify specific projects to improve the transportation system, Roberts said. It is expected to be finalized early in 2022.

The new survey did not identify the public’s second top frustration but instead broke down problems by city sector.

Residents identified the lack of infrastructure to serve cyclists and pedestrians as a key problem in six of the 12 sectors studied. Road maintenance and better east-west connections were also cited as priority improvement areas in multiple sectors, the survey found.

Providing safe cycling and pedestrian infrastructure can help ease congestion, said Jerry White, advocacy committee chairman for Bike Colorado Springs.

“We have the ability to provide transportation options for people who don’t want to be part of the congestion. … There is just a fair amount of reluctance to make that happen,” he said.

City plans in general support bicycling and walkability at a high level, but problems have arisen with implementation, White said. For example, he cited the city’s support for a corridor approach to bicycling infrastructure rather than a connected network that helps residents get to destinations.

“That’s a fundamental failing of the city planning process,” he said.

City officials responded to his critique by saying, priority bike corridors identified in the 2018 Bike Master Plan will be incorporated into the new transportation plan.

“This not only builds upon the priority bike corridors, but will interconnect them with several transportation corridors,” Roberts said.

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It would have been easy for the Washington Nationals to look in another direction at third base for the 2021 season. With several top third basemen presumably on the trade block, and Justin Turner having been available in free agency, the Nationals had options this offseason.

Instead, they are determined to give Carter Kieboom a chance to prove himself. The one time consensus top 25 prospect was expected to be a building block for the Nationals, someone that they could pair with Juan Soto to have a strong duo in the middle of the lineup. He was the future at the hot corner, someone that would be able to replace Anthony Rendon‘s production.

Washington Nationals hope Carter Kieboom can live up to expectations
Instead, Kieboom has yet to show he can be that player in the majors. His 2020 season was a disaster, as he produced a horrendous .202/.344/.212 batting line in 122 plate appearances. While his ability to get on base, with 17 walks have having been hit by a pitch five times, was a nice bonus, he did not display any power. Kieboom’s one extra base hit was a double on September 8.

MORE NATIONALS: Zimmerman back in Washington
The hope is that Kieboom’s power will begin to manifest during game action. He is still just 23 years old, and had been expected to develop above average power as he continues to mature. Kieboom had belted 32 homers and 55 doubles combined in his 2018 and 2019 minor league campaigns, giving hope that the pop will be there.

But that has not happened in the majors. Kieboom did hit two homers in his 43 major league plate appearances in 2019, but those were also his only extra base hits for the Nationals. Three extra base hits in 165 major league plate appearances are not what the Nationals had in mind.

Defensively, Kieboom is ready. He saved five runs at third last year, ranking fourth in the National League, while showing exceptional range. Likewise, he has displayed an excellent eye at the plate. But eventually, he will need to hit. The Nationals cannot afford to wait indefinitely in the hopes that his bat will come around.

NEXT: Nationals add their closer
Carter Kieboom will get another chance in 2021. But the Washington Nationals may want to keep an eye out for other options just in case.