SEVERAL Major League Baseball players have opted out of the league’s rescheduled season, citing health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross of the World Series-winning Washington Nationals were joined by Ian Desmond of the Colorado Rockies and Mike Leake of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday, just days before spring training is set to start.
Zimmerman, 35, explained in a statement that because he has three young children, including a newborn baby, and an at-risk mother, the decision to sit the season out makes sense for his family.
“After a great deal of thought and given my family circumstances – three young children, including a newborn, and a mother at high risk – I have decided not to participate in the 2020 season,” Zimmerman said in a statement released by his agency, CAA. “Everyone knows how much it means to me to be part of a team, and I will miss that camaraderie dearly this year.”
On Monday night, Colorado Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond posted an emotional message on Instagram.
Desmond, 34, who is biracial, referenced the ongoing racial tensions in the country as well as the pandemic.
He said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has made this baseball season one that is a risk I am not comfortable taking.
“With a pregnant wife and four young children who have lots of questions about what’s going on in the world, home is where I need to be right now. Home for my wife, Chelsey. Home to help. Home to guide. Home to answer my older three boys’ questions about Coronavirus and Civil Rights and life. Home to be their Dad.”
Zimmerman, a first baseman, is the only player to have played in a regular season game for the Nationals during each of their 15 seasons, according to MASN Sports. He noted in his statement that after last year’s World Series win, he’d love to be back on the field with the Nats, but he’s confident he’s making the best decision.
“Of course I would love to pursue back-to-back titles,” Zimmerman said. “I cannot speak for anyone else, but given the unusual nature of the season, this is the best decision for me and my family, and I truly appreciate the organization’s understanding and support.”
Nats general manager Mike Rizzo released a statement Monday saying that two players – Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross – would both be sitting out the season.
“Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross have decided not to participate in the 2020 season for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones,” Rizzo said. “We are 100 percent supportive of their decision to not play this year. We will miss their presence in the clubhouse and their contributions on the field.”
Zimmerman, who had long-been one of the Nats’ highest paid players, said last winter that he was not yet ready to retire, but would be proceeding with the team on year-to-year contracts, MASN reported.
He made it clear that his decision to sit out the 2020 season does not mean that he is retiring.
“To be clear, I am not retiring at this time,” he said. “I have not decided on my future in baseball past 2020. But this year, I’ll be staying safe at home and pulling as hard as anyone for the guys to defend our championship.”
Major League Baseball made the decision to shorten the 2020 season to 60 games amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but players were given the option to opt out.
In its COVID-19 return-to-play safety plan, the league states that any players who are considered high-risk – those with pre-existing conditions, compromised immune systems, etc. – can decide not to play in the shortened season and still receive their full salary and service time.
The MLB’s protocol also included an opt-out option for players who have high-risk family members. The decision on whether or not those players should receive their full salaries and service time is left up to the teams.
The shortened season is expected to begin on July 23.