‘We are not a functioning society’: MLB players ponder next steps after decision to not play

Day two of an unprecedented era in Major League Baseball history dawned uncertainly for Black players, already a cohort that exists, to some degree, in isolation given that they comprise less than 8% of the league’s player population.

For Cincinnati Reds pitcher Amir Garrett, the collective decision of his team and five others not to play Wednesday in recognition of systemic racism, police brutality and the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha, Wis. police officer was a relief.

Moving on from a one-day pause is a far more complex matter.

“We are not a functioning society,” Garrett said in an appearance on MLB Network, echoing the pandemic-inspired words of Washington Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle last month. “We are not there as a country. I may not play tonight. It depends on how I feel.

“It will be hard for me to put my uniform back on today.”

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The Reds and Brewers are scheduled to play a doubleheader Thursday afternoon in Milwaukee, the additional game making up the one that didn’t happen Wednesday as both teams joined with the half-dozen NBA squads who paused their playoffs in the aftermath of Sunday’s shooting in Kenosha, where Blake was shot seven times in the back.

Ultimately, three MLB games – Reds-Brewers, Dodgers-Giants and Padres-Mariners – were postponed. The unrelenting schedule, compressed this year into 60 games by the COVID-19 pandemic, will go on.

That’s barely enough time to distill yesterday’s actions, let alone chart a path forward in fighting racism and police brutality, issues baked into the country’s DNA.

“I’m still working on myself,” Garrett said, “on where we go from here.”

Garrett made his MLB debut in 2017. (Photo: Albert Cesare via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

But Wednesday’s actions, even if temporary, were extremely significant to Black players. Garrett said he felt “a weight was lifted from my shoulders” when teammate Mike Moustakas told him the Reds and Brewers agreed not to play.

Reliever Devin Williams, the lone Black player on the Brewers after outfielder Lorenzo Cain opted out of the season, said Thursday that a team meeting was already called by the time he arrived at the ballpark and heard the news of the Bucks’ action, which sparked a four-sport movement.

“I didn’t really have time to think about it on my own. I’m glad it happened the way it did, though,” he said on a video conference with reporters. “That’s huge, and another thing is I’m glad I didn’t have to speak (to the media) yesterday, that you guys got to listen to (Christian Yelich) and (Brent) Suter and (Ryan) Braun.

“To speak for me. I thought that was huge.”

Williams said the Brewers will be back on the field Thursday, that they have “games to win.” Yet he also realizes the impact of this week will not be quickly forgotten.

“I think 10, 15 years from now history will look back and realize we were right in what we did,” he said. “ To be able to be myself in this world is something I’ll never forget.”

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