Major League Baseball works to vaccinate players amid coronavirus pandemic

Some in Major League Baseball, as in so many other industries, have pointed to the introduction of vaccines as the beginning of a return to normal. But MLB is learning that widespread vaccination is not as linear a process as it may seem – or a proposal as non-polarizing as some may hope.

Over the past few weeks, teams and their players have faced a choice of whether to be vaccinated. This was stimulated by the promise of relaxed restrictions when 85 percent of the players and staff on a team get the shot. Major League Baseball won’t say exactly how many teams made the threshold, though the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox have said they were among those who did.

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Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais said this week he heard that 10 out of 30 teams had hit the threshold. MLB would not confirm that number and does not identify which teams hit the mark, although it said it was “encouraged” by the number, noting that logistical issues make reaching large numbers of players difficult. However, managers and executives have recognized that the reluctance of players is partly to blame.

“Some players have hesitated,” New York Mets president Sandy Alderson said last week, adding that the team held a mandatory training session with a doctor in hopes of addressing vaccine concerns, which the Boston Red Sox did and others did too.

“I think that’s in the best interests of the team. It is in their families’ best interests. It is in the best interests of those who work with the players. So I hope that in addition to your personal medical considerations, you will also consider all of these things. “

Keeping vaccines on MLB teams can be very important. It can make a difference whether teammates are allowed to dine in restaurants or spend time with the family and play video games together. In short, it can determine whether players can take part in the valued off-field activities that will help make a long baseball season easier to navigate.

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An MLB clubhouse is home to players of different backgrounds, educational levels, political views, and religious beliefs. It’s an environment that remains largely stable based on the premise that it doesn’t matter what a teammate thinks as long as it helps you win. The choice of whether to vaccinate threatens this complex and fragile balance.

If a team suffers a coronavirus outbreak, it can dramatically affect their net worth for the season. The Astros, Washington Nationals and Minnesota Twins have played multiple games without a key starter due to coronavirus outbreaks. The Nationals and Twins had to postpone several games and subsequently had to play double heads with exhausted rosters.

“These conversations with some guys have continued, but we are not here to rush our players. At this point, our players will make their own decisions, ”said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli on Tuesday. “We will support the decisions that they make. Are there some things that might become easier for us in terms of protocol once we hit that 85 percent threshold? Yes. But again, this will not be something that will continue regularly from our end, trying to get someone to do something they don’t like to do. “

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Some players say they talk to their teammates about vaccination. Others say they stay out of it. But many agree that the question is uncomfortable.

When asked earlier this month whether he had considered taking the vaccine, Nationals thrower Max Scherzer, a member of the players’ union executive subcommittee, shuffled for his words.

“There are people who want that [get the vaccine]. You know, I never try to get deep into where it is, ”he said, seeming to imply that while some players weren’t getting the vaccine, he didn’t count how many. “For me, I tend to follow science. I try to listen to what the scientists say what the experts say. I see an advantage in this and I can’t wait to get it. “

Many players have confirmed Scherzer’s unwillingness to prescribe the vaccine for teammates and reflected his determination to speak only for himself.

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“I’ll tell you this: I’m in a vaccine commercial,” he told reporters, adding that it was “private medical information” as to whether he got the shot. Many of his teammates, including Michael Conforto, James McCann and JD Davis, said this was a “personal choice”.

Mike Shildt, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, Terry Francona, Cleveland coach, Justin Turner, the Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman, and many others have avoided an attitude with similar phrasing.

Other players have used social media to make their stance on the vaccine clear. For example, twin shortstop Andrelton Simmons made a statement on Twitter late spring saying, “For personal reasons and based on previous experience, I will not advocate or advocate this [the vaccine]. I hope I don’t have to explain myself. “

“If you have specific reasons why you don’t want to get it, it’s a very personal choice,” Derek Falvey, president of the Twins of Baseball Operations, told St. Paul Pioneer Press this month. “But if you are someone who hesitates because you lack a bit of information about it, then I believe that to some extent it is our responsibility to help them get that information and ultimately make the informed decision that they can will meet in the future. ”

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A National League player, asked about conversations at the clubhouse about the vaccine, sent Karinchak’s mail as an example of the kind of beliefs he and others in sports sometimes encounter when trying to promote vaccination. Many managers say they encounter players who have concerns about how the vaccine could affect their health. They hope that training sessions can calm the situation down.

Tony Clark, executive director of the MLB Players Association, said when the union asked about the vaccine, the loudest it heard was that the players would not agree to make it binding.

“Based on player feedback, it was important that we keep the vaccination voluntary,” said Clark. “There are players who are interested and have already taken the vaccine. There are others who are concerned and there are others who are not interested in taking the vaccine. Our responsibility is to give the guys that option and to make sure they have the information they need to make the decision they want to make for themselves and their families. “