Orioles, Rays decide not to play on Thursday

August 28th, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG – The series finale between the Orioles and Rays at Tropicana Field was one of seven Major League games postponed on Thursday night as the players turned their focus to bringing further attention to systemic racism after Sunday’s shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha, Wis., police officer.

Joining the Orioles and Rays were the Reds Sox and Blue Jays, the Twins and Tigers, the A’s and Rangers, the Marlins and Mets, the Phillies and Nationals, and the Rockies and D-backs. Three other games were postponed on Wednesday night as part of the protest.

The Orioles originally planned to play Thursday’s game, then reconsidered and alerted the Rays of their decision. The Orioles tweeted the following statement:

“After continued reflection and further dialogue, Orioles players have decided to not play tonight’s game against the Rays as they join athletes around the country in expressing solidarity with victims of social injustice and systemic racism.”

Said Rays pitcher and player representative Tyler Glasnow: “Obviously, the world is much more important than just sports. I think it means a lot. To many Americans and people around the world, sports are such a big deal, and just seeing everything shut down it’s just to show how important it is. It’s bigger than baseball.”

The athlete protests began on Wednesday when the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks refused to play their playoff game against the Orlando Magic as a protest against police brutality in the wake of the shooting of Blake. The 29-year-old Black man was shot seven times and is now paralyzed from the waist down, according to his lawyer. Other NBA teams joined in, as did MLB teams, WNBA teams, MLS teams and women’s tennis players.

Both the Orioles and Rays had initial plans of playing Thursday’s game, but the plans started changing closer to game time. The decision to postpone the game was led by the Orioles, who have five Black players and one Black coach on staff.

The Orioles met as a team during the afternoon and decided to play, letting the Rays know of their plans. The Rays also had discussions throughout the day and Glasnow had multiple chats with players on the Orioles.

After much discussion, the Orioles had a separate players-only meeting after batting practice, where some players felt they could speak more freely on the issues at hand. That discussion helped them realize that it was best for them not to play. The Orioles relayed the information to the Rays, who understood and supported their decision.

**"**The guys are just trying to stand as one right now,” Orioles pitcher Dillon Tate said. “And ultimately we realize that there is a lot of pain and guys are feeling hurt about the situation and we just want to stay on with one another and since one of us is feeling that way or two of us, however many it may be, we're all going to stand as one and make the same decision so that's why we're not playing."

“There were a lot of people hurting in the room,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “I came into the room, we discussed it a little more, and I told them I would support any decision they made.”

Hyde went on to say, “I'm really proud of our players. I'm proud of how they've acted throughout this whole difficult year.”

Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough was warming up on the field with pitching coach Kyle Snyder. But after a short warmup, Yarbrough and catcher Mike Zunino were instructed to come back into the clubhouse. In the meantime, the scoreboard at Tropicana Field flashed a message that read “JUSTICE. EQUALITY. NOW.”

"It was one of those days where you woke up and you felt like it was a different day with what was going on,” Orioles pitcher Alex Cobb said. “We got to the clubhouse. And we all had, you know, some small conversations knowing there was going to be a meeting at 4:15 with the group and then the meeting went well. You know, it sparked up some more conversations. I think some things that happened in that meeting, kind of got the ball rolling on certain conversations. And then throughout the course of BP, where guys really have some time to kind of sit on it, think about it."

Said Rays manager Kevin Cash: “Standing by the Rays organization is that hopefully this is a time for us to reflect on what’s taken place. And just recognize that we can do better, we need to do better and we look forward to doing that in the future.”

The game will be made up at a date to be determined in conjunction with Major League Baseball, the Rays said. The Orioles and Rays have one series remaining this season, set for Sept. 17-20 in Baltimore, meaning that the Rays will likely serve as the home team for one of the games during that series.

But on Thursday, it was all about the message and what both teams hope to accomplish by their decision.

“I think in the beginning I thought you had to be one side or the other," said Cobb, who has a brother who is a police officer. "… And I just don't think that was the right way to look at things now. I will always respect every single person that puts on a uniform and goes out to protect us. But I also have had too many moments where I look into my teammates’ eyes or my friends’ eyes, and I can see they're dealing with some real struggles and that their hearts are heavy. We need to find a way.”