BALTIMORE -- Two days after protests kept fans inside the park for their safety, Monday night’s White Sox-Baltimore Orioles game was canceled after another day of unrest.
The Orioles announced the decision to cancel the opener of a three-game series with the White Sox about 50 minutes before the scheduled first pitch as protests over the death of Freddie Gray turned violent in the Baltimore. Fewer than 1,000 fans had entered Oriole Park at Camden Yards when the announcement was made and the two teams haven’t yet decided upon a makeup date.
With protests entering a second week after the April 19 death of Gray, who was laid to rest Monday morning, New Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said the teams haven’t made any decisions about the remaining two games, but all alternatives -- perhaps even moving the series elsewhere -- would be discussed.
“The decision was reached after consultation with local officials,” said Manfred, in town for previously scheduled meetings with both clubs. “We feel like we made the decision that would provide us the greatest possible security in terms of protecting the fans, the players, the umpires, everybody involved.”
“At this point we’re looking at every possible alternative in terms of completing the schedule in a timely way and making sure the games are played in a security situation that is safe for the fans. We’re going to look at every alternative at this point.”
According to the Baltimore Sun, Monday’s riots had already resulted in 15 injuries to local police officers and 27 arrests by 7:45 p.m. CST. Local schools will be closed on Tuesday and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency, which activates the Maryland National Guard.
A peaceful protest on Saturday night turned violent and resulted in fans attending that evening’s Orioles-Boston Red Sox game being kept inside the park for their own safety. Dempsey’s Brew Pub and Restaurant, which is attached to the ballpark, was slightly damaged.
One possibility is Tuesday's start time being moved up to the afternoon, a decision that would be made early Tuesday morning. But if the game isn't moved up it could potentially be moved to another venue after Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake imposed a citywide curfew for Tuesday night from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m.
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Located about 40 miles away, Nationals Park is vacant this week as the Washington Nationals are on a road trip. Citizens Bank Park, the home of the Philadelphia Phillies, is also vacant and less than 90 miles away.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said his club is open to whatever MLB and the Orioles suggest.
“We’ve been talking about this since the middle of the afternoon that there was the chance this could happen tonight and if it did there certainly are far greater priorities than playing one baseball game,” Hahn said. “I do know everything is on the table to postponing to later in the season to perhaps changing venues or start times. Whatever. We’re flexible. We’re here. When they feel it’s safe and prudent and the right thing to a baseball game we’re here and ready to play.”
When media access began at 3:40 p.m. (EST), the eyes of nearly everyone in a White Sox uniform in the clubhouse -- from Hahn and the coaching staff to players and clubhouse attendants -- were transfixed upon the horrifying images of violence from several local news broadcasts. Most players were weary of the situation, one the Baltimore Sun’s Twitter handle described as a “mob,” taking place about four miles from the stadium. Ninety minutes later, players and coaches couldn’t help but notice helicopters flying over the stadium as they stretched for batting practice.
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Shortly after the announcement, players and coaches quickly exited the ballpark with a police escort.
“It’s a little scary,” outfielder Adam Eaton said. “In all of our minds, we don’t want to be out there and have a situation go down where somebody may be in danger or get hurt. It’s in the best of everyone’s interest.
“We’re just trying to get home to the hotel and be safe. I have some family here. I know some other guys have family here. We’re just trying to get out of harm’s way and be safe.
“We’re going to run I think. I think there are some police officers who would escort us over there, so we’re going to hang out with those guys and they’ll help protect us.”