When Cedric Mullins looks back at 2020, he’ll remember the year he re-found his swing on the field and found his voice off it. Before re-establishing himself in the Orioles plans with a career-reviving season, Mullins participated in peaceful protests after the killing of George Floyd. He then played a
When Cedric Mullins looks back at 2020, he’ll remember the year he re-found his swing on the field and found his voice off it. Before re-establishing himself in the Orioles plans with a career-reviving season, Mullins participated in peaceful protests after the killing of George Floyd. He then played a key role in the O’s decision to bring further attention to police brutality and systemic racism rather than play their Aug. 27 game against the Rays.
“It gave us as Black players, Black people in Black communities, a chance to speak up about things we feel are issues within our country, things that we feel like, when we come together, can easily be fixed,” Mullins said.
So when The Players Alliance was set to roll through Mullins’ offseason home of Atlanta on Sunday, Dec. 20, as part of its Pull-Up Neighbor Tour, the Orioles’ center fielder did not hesitate to join the cause. Led by former three-time All-Star Curtis Granderson, The Players Alliance is a nonprofit partnership involving more than 150 current and former players coalesced this summer to promote inclusivity and spark community change. Mullins was part of a large Atlanta-based group to participate in the latest leg of the Alliance’s 33-city Pull Up Neighbor tour, which runs through January.
• Alliance’s Pull Up Neighbor Tour
“It’s huge,” Mullins said. “When you run into a group of guys who have been where you potentially want to be, they are inspiring you to continue to strive forward.”
Former Orioles outfielder Dwight Smith Jr., Braves righty Touch Toussaint, Tigers infielder Niko Goodrum and several other members of the Braves organization made up the Sunday volunteer group that worked at Atlanta’s Frederick Douglass High School to distribute baseball equipment, COVID-19 protection supplies and food to people in need. The location had special significance for Mullins, being where his father, Boyd Cedric I, attended high school.
The younger Mullins stressed the importance of outreach in cities and underprivileged communities, where opportunities to play baseball can be limited. Another goal of The Players Alliance is to address larger issues facing Black communities.
“The first glove I owned for myself was in college,” Mullins said. “Besides that, it was other people who could provide me with baseball equipment. For us to do that for the younger generation, that was pretty awesome.”
Supported by both MLB and the Players Association, The Players Alliance’s work is an extension of players efforts this summer to build awareness about racial justice. The group’s members combined to donate more than $1 million in game salaries from Jackie Robinson Day to the cause; MLB and the Players Association contributed $10 million to fund Alliance-designed programs, with MLB donating an additional $1 million of supplies and equipment for the Alliance’s Gear for Good program.
• Players Alliance forges ahead for change
Following a lost season in 2019, Mullins revamped his swing last winter and rebounded in 2020, hitting .271 with three homers, seven steals, .723 OPS and a team-best five defensive Outs Above Average in 48 games. He enters 2021 with the inside track on most of the Orioles’ reps in center field, though competition will be stiff with Austin Hays, Ryan McKenna and several other outfield prospects knocking on the door.
“Before everything went crazy, I think the adjustments I made with my swing gave me a huge advantage,” Mullins said. “That definitely helped. I always knew the defense was there, but it was just a matter of continuing to fine tune little things.”
Off the field, Mullins said he would continue to look for opportunities to remain involved with The Player’s Alliance, with an eye toward not only promoting baseball but also advocating for social change.
“The year 2020 really pushed the envelope to get this going and making the change amongst ourselves, then being able to branch it to everyone else,” Mullins said. “Having our faces out there definitely helps get the ball rolling, because you never know who you might inspire, who you might reach out to who will follow in your footsteps.”
Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.