A.J. Pollock experienced what he called "a wild ride" before rejoining his Los Angeles Dodgers teammates earlier this week, a ride that included the premature birth of his daughter and a brief bout with COVID-19.
Pollock's daughter, Maddi, was born three months premature on March 19 and weighed 1.6 pounds at birth. He tested positive for the coronavirus roughly three months later and was forced to quarantine for 14 days. His wife, Kate, was kept away from Maddi for 10 days even though she didn't contract the virus.
"It's really bizarre," Pollock, speaking during a video conference from Dodger Stadium on Friday, said of experiencing his daughter's early birth. "It's a really strange feeling. You have a lot of joy seeing your daughter, but she's 1 pound, and your head's already gone to, 'What's the future look like? What's the next step?' Obviously there's no relief that she's born because you know of all the challenges ahead. Yeah, it's been a wild ride. It's been very emotional. And it's been scary, it's been frightening, frustrating. Just a lot of emotions. But she's in a really good place now."
Kate remains in Arizona waiting for Maddi to be discharged from the neonatal intensive care unit. Doctors want to make sure she can eat on her own consistently without the need for a feeding tube. Pollock said he believes she's close but remains unsure of when she'll be cleared. At the very least, he hopes to see her again when the Dodgers travel to Phoenix to face the Arizona Diamondbacks in a couple of weeks as baseball begins its shortened season.
Pollock reported that Maddi now weighs more than 8 pounds.
"She looks like a normal baby," he said. "If I didn't tell you she was 24 weeks [at birth], when you saw her you wouldn't think anything of it. Really grateful. She's pretty cute. It's been a lot of fun. Obviously you go on Google after you have a baby at 24 weeks, it's frightening. It's terrifying all the things that come up. But we've been very lucky to this point, and it would be amazing if she just continues going and we kind of share her story with people who are going through it, and they can see that there's some hope and there's a scenario where it can be a really, really good scenario instead of all these negative types of things that can go wrong."
Pollock, a 32-year-old outfielder heading into the second of a four-year, $55 million contract, was exceedingly careful around the birth of his daughter, going only to the hospital and to train. He said he barely slept one night because of headaches and body aches but thought it was because the air conditioner in his house broke down. Then he began to feel congested and the headaches worsened, and Pollock took a test that revealed he had the coronavirus. He said he had a hard time believing it until he suddenly lost his sense of smell.
It took less than a week for Pollock to feel like himself again. He called it "frightening" but also "a blessing" because he said he now has antibodies for the virus to provide him with a defense mechanism. He is the second Dodgers player known to have tested positive, along with closer Kenley Jansen. Pollock, like Jansen, didn't necessarily struggle with the thought of playing baseball this year. The decision became easy when Kate, a former lacrosse player at Notre Dame, asked: "Could you really look at the guys win the World Series from our couch?"
Pollock said he's happy to be back, but ever mindful of the fact that Kate is spending 10-hour days at the hospital visiting a newborn daughter who's more than 300 miles away.
"They'll get here soon," Pollock said. "It's a nice escape for me, but it's tough thinking about what my wife is going through."