Colorado Rockies outfielder and former Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond announced Monday night on Instagram that he'll be opting out of the 2020 MLB season.
In summary, Desmond said the COVID-19 pandemic made the season a risk not worth taking. But the thoughtful post, which touched on his days navigating youth baseball as a biracial kid and how Major League Baseball can do more to support underprivileged communities, went even deeper into how he plans to spend his time off.
"I'll be right here, at my old Little League, and I'm working with everyone involved to make sure we get Sarasota Youth Baseball back on track," Desmond wrote. "It's what I can do, in the scheme of so much. So, I am."
Desmond began the post by saying his coping mechanism of suppressing emotions was broken when he saw a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneel on the neck of a Black man, George Floyd. He then explained how in the following days he visited the Little League fields in Sarasota that he once played on, how bad of shape they're in, and the different memories from his youth that came rushing back to him while walking the deserted grounds -- some not as good as others.
He remembered being dropped off for a tryout by a stepfather who never came back to get him. He remembered a coach noticing he was upset and hugging him to make him feel better. Then his thoughts took him to the moments when his high school teammates chanted "white power" before games.
"I had the most heartbreak and the most fulfillment right there on those fields -- in the same exact place," Desmond wrote. "I felt the hurt of racism, the loneliness of abandonment, and so many other emotions. But I also felt the triumph of success. The love of others. The support of a group of men pulling for each other and picking one another up as a team."
From there, he reflected on a 12-year-old Nationals Youth Baseball Academy player named Antwuan, who Desmond said could barely say his ABC's and couldn't read. With help of the program, Desmond said, Antwuan learned how to read and was progressing on the right track until he was killed at 18 years old in Washington.
"It's almost safe to say that the best years of his life came from that Academy... and yet the staff running it have to beg people to invest money and time," Desmond said. "How can that be? Why isn't there an academy like that in every single community? Why does Major League Baseball have to have a specific youth baseball affiliation with RBI? Why can't we support teaching the game to all kids -- but especially those in underprivileged communities? Why aren't accessible, affordable youth sports viewed as an essential opportunity to affect kids' development, as opposed to money-making propositions and recruiting chances?"
Desmond came to the conclusion that as America's pastime, baseball was failing at providing equal opportunities -- from the youth level to the major leagues. He cited a lack of focus by MLB on improving diversity: "We've got a minority issue from top down. One African American GM. Two African American managers. Less than 8% Black players. No Black majority team owners."
Desmond said he doesn't have the answers, but doing his part to contribute in his hometown is part of the reason he'll be sitting out the 2020 season. He said he'll also spend his time off to be with his pregnant wife and four young children who have questions about coronavirus and civil rights.
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