Flaherty's thoughts with shooting victim

August 25th, 2020

Cardinals right-hander wore a Kobe Bryant jersey to his postgame news conference Monday night to pay tribute to his boyhood hero, who would have turned 42 on Sunday. But Flaherty’s mind was elsewhere, after waking up Monday morning to news of yet another Black man, Jacob Blake, being shot by police.

So after pitching five shutout innings in a 9-3 victory over the Royals on Monday night at Busch Stadium, Flaherty struggled for words, and at times, his composure.

He was one of baseball’s most outspoken players in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and Flaherty, who is biracial and identifies as Black, had more to say on Monday night. At times, he seemed to be attempting to get his mind around the inanity of the whole thing.

“I woke up and saw that this morning, and that was tough,” he said. “That was tough to watch. And it didn't really make sense. It still doesn't make sense.

“It's hard to find words, but it's one of the things that when that happens, you see it and you want justice and you pray that he’s OK. You pray for him to make a recovery.”

Blake, 29, was shot multiple times in the back by police in Kenosha, Wis., while getting into a car with his children inside. Blake survived surgery and is in serious condition, his family said Monday.

“It sounds like he’s going to be able to [survive],” Flaherty said, “but Jacob is going to have a lot of work and lot of changes in his life. I mean, you get seven rounds fired into your back like that, [it] just doesn’t really make sense. You just kind of wonder what’s going through everybody’s head there in that kind of situation.”

“It just continues. I mean, just because sports is coming back doesn’t mean these conversations stop and that there’s no call for action. It means we actually need more call for action. We need more people to continue this conversation, continue to bring light to events like this. What would have happened if somebody hadn’t filmed it? Just thoughts and prayers with him and his family right now.”

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Flaherty spoke movingly of Bryant, saying, “Just the athlete that he was and the impact he had on so many people. It still doesn't quite feel real to myself, and I’m sure a bunch of others.” After his last start, Flaherty received text messages from friends noting his next one would be on 8/24, which was Kobe Bryant Day in Los Angeles (the date correlates to the two jersey numbers Bryant wore while playing for the Lakers).

Flaherty attempted to speak of pitch counts and the usual thing pitchers speak of after games. But his mind kept going back to Blake, miles away in a Wisconsin hospital.

“It’s just so unfortunate, and it continues to happen,” Flaherty said. “You just continue to ask questions and continue to wonder. There’s things to be done, there’s changes to be made.

“It starts with the law, it starts with voting. I saw [NBA star] Chris Paul, he urged all his guys to get out and make sure they’re registered to vote. It was really hard to watch, but thoughts and prayers with the Blake family and praying he makes a recovery. But it’s just unfortunate.”