After initially deciding to play the scheduled game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Orioles decided not to. An announcement from the team came shortly after the scheduled 6:40 game time.
“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,” the statement read.
The Orioles had a scheduled team meeting and, after that, manager Brandon Hyde had a video conference call where he reported that the players were going to play.
During batting practice, players talked and saw that five other games had been postponed. When they returned to the clubhouse, the players had a meeting among themselves.
“Our guys expressed more of their thoughts on the situation, and I think there was a lot of guys hurting in the room,” Hyde said. “They decided. Our team decided that they would not like to play tonight.
“I came in the room, and we discussed it a little bit more, and told them I was going to support any decision they made. They knew that, and that’s when they decided.”
After the team meeting, Hyde called Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash to tell him of the decision.
“He was extremely supportive, extremely patient, handled extremely first-class, like he always is,” Hyde said. “He totally understood.”
Orioles starting pitcher Alex Cobb said that other teams’ postponements didn’t play a part in his team’s decision, and he wanted a unified stand.
“The last thing we wanted was for anybody to go out there with a heavy heart and not fully dedicated to the game,” Cobb said. “If it helped some people grieve tonight, if it helped some people deal with the situation we’re dealing with as a society, that’s all you can ask for.”
It’s a difficult issue for Cobb, who has four Black teammates and a brother who’s a decorated military hero as well as a police officer.
“I’m learning to not look at it through those lenses anymore,” Cobb said. “In the beginning, you had to be one side or the other. You had to be for our police or for our inner-city communities, and I just don’t think that was the right way to look at things.
“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 that I can see that they’re dealing with some real struggles and that their hearts are heavy, and we need to find a way to start the conversation of mending the two sides rather than picking a side. I don’t know what that avenue is.
“It’s something that’s evolving each day. What we’re seeing in our communities and now with our athletes, where there was a lot of friction before, I think that it’s starting to mend a little bit. I think that’s a good first step. I pray that we’re able to find a way for everybody to just love everybody.”
Relief pitcher Dillon Tate, who is Black, talked about team unity.
“The guys are trying to stand as one right now,” Tate said. “Ultimately, we realize there’s a lot of pain. Guys are feeling hurt about the situation. We just want to stand 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 was plenty of baseball business to conduct on Thursday. A lineup wasn’t released until about 45 minutes before the scheduled start, and four player transactions had to be handled, including the activation of shortstop José Iglesias. It was natural to think that Hyde was overwhelmed.
“Not feeling sorry for myself in any way,” Hyde said. “I’m the leader of this team. It’s my job to support our players to the utmost, to communicate with our players as well as I possibly can and I feel that we’ve done that. I’m proud of our players. I’m proud how they’ve acted through this whole, difficult year.
“It’s been … there are a lot more people in the world having a more difficult time than I am, so I’m not one to feel sorry for myself in all this.”
Cobb lauded Hyde’s leadership.
“I can’t think of one who’d have to deal with one of these issues in one particular year,” Cobb said. “Handling it flawlessly, and every single day, it seems like there’s something new coming up that he’s had to deal with … I can see it weighing on him at times. I think today was emotional for him. Every single situation he’s handled with class and a lot of respect for everybody involved.”
Worn down at the end of a long two days, Hyde grew emotional at the end of the second media session in two hours.
“You lead the best way you can,” he began to say. “I feel like I’ve been … sorry,” Hyde said, and could speak no more.
The Rays play in Baltimore September 17-20, and the game is expected to made up as part of that series, which concludes the Orioles’ home schedule.
The Orioles continue their road trip with four games against the Toronto Blue Jays in Buffalo beginning on Friday. It will be the first time the Orioles have played a game in a stadium not used by a major league team.
“I haven’t thought about tomorrow for one second,” Hyde said.