BALTIMORE -- The pending issues the White Sox faced when they arrived in Charm City three days ago seem trivial now after several days of rioting and canceled baseball games.
Rather than worry about what’s to come of the five-game suspensions doled out to Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija, the White Sox -- who are set to play the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday afternoon in front of an empty stadium -- have been thrust into the middle of chaos as citizens continue to vent their anger over the April 19 death of Freddie Gray, who died a week after he was taken into custody by the Baltimore Police Department.
Instead of thinking about when Carlos Rodon might make his first start or if Alexei Ramirez is in need of a day off, the White Sox have watched the horrifying images form Monday’s riots that resulted in more than 200 arrests, 159 vehicles and structures burned, 20 police officers injured and the deployment of 500 National Guard troops, according to the Baltimore Sun.
“For anyone who’s around or watching it on TV or seeing it outside your window, it helps put in perspective a lot of things,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said shortly after Tuesday’s game was cancelled and plans for Wednesday’s contest were unveiled. “You realize the more pressing and serious issues than what you’re going to do with your rotation or how you’re dealing with suspensions.”
Aside from an afternoon workout, the White Sox have spent most of their time tucked away in the team hotel, awaiting word on whether or not the series would resume. With a need for law enforcement resources elsewhere, the Orioles and Major League Baseball announced the teams would play Wednesday’s game at 2:05 p.m. behind closed doors. The decision is another reminder of the past week’s events in a town will be thrust into a weeklong citywide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting on Tuesday night.
“You don’t normally see this anywhere you go,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said after he watched a number of National Guard vehicles roll into town. “When you’re there, it’s different. You’re seeing these vehicles you normally don’t see rolling through a city, it can get scary.”
Even though the curfew and decision not to play has left the team holed up in its hotel, White Sox players and management agreed with the decision to cancel the first two games of the series.
“You can’t help but feel terrible for what’s going on, and at the same time feeling helpless,” White Sox reliever Zach Duke said. “It’s a different feeling and it’s not a good one.
“With so much terrible activity going on in the city, it’s hard going out there trying to entertain and take attention away from it.”
Not that the team would be entirely comfortable doing so, either. Hours before Monday’s riots began, law enforcement officials bulked up security around Oriole Park at Camden Yards and collected all the garbage cans in the area in anticipation of an event like Saturday’s when fans attending an Orioles-Boston Red Sox game were required to stay in the facility for an inning for safety reasons.
Several helicopters could be seen hovering over downtown during batting practice on Monday. There were also reports of looting taking place within a half mile of Camden Yards.
“To be in the thick of it, at a hotel a half mile or so away, we were taking BP and we could smell burning, whatever was burning nearby,” outfielder Adam Eaton said. “A little surreal. We were happy to stay in the hotel (Monday) and (Tuesday).”
Monday’s contest was canceled 50 minutes before the scheduled first pitch. Players received a police escort back to their hotel and were told to stay put. Many watched the events unfolding from their rooms.
“When you look out the window and see this is really happening right here, it's a little scary,” catcher Tyler Flowers said.
Outfielder Avisail Garcia likened the situation to what he witnessed in Venezuela in early 2014. Those protests ravaged the country and reportedly led to more than 3,000 arrests and 43 deaths, according to Reuters.
“Hopefully everything will get better,” Garcia said. “Hopefully nobody will die because that’s a situation that we have in Venezuela. It’s bad and hopefully everything gets better.
“That’s nothing good about it and hopefully everything will get better and people stay safe.”
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Once the situation calms down, the White Sox -- who head to Minneapolis for four games after Wednesday’s contest concludes -- will resume worrying about the aspects of the season most important to them.
But for now, baseball is of distant importance.
“It gives you that sense of perspective, which is good,” Hahn said. “And hopefully once we start playing ballgames again we can provide the important role that baseball plays in terms of providing entertainment and distraction and people a little bit of escape from these rough couple of days we’ve had around us here.”