Amidst widespread protests and boycotts of games by players across all major sports in the United States, the Orioles and Rays appeared ready to forge on with their game as scheduled in Tampa Bay on Thursday.
But just before first pitch, the game was postponed and the dugouts and field were officially taken down. The decision came despite a "unanimous" decision from the Orioles to play hours earlier.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said the Rays had similar, emotional clubhouse discussions in their clubhouse. The postponement came in the aftermath of a police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The NBA and NHL postponed all games Thursday.
“We met a little while ago as a team, we’ve had a lot of individual conversations, small group discussions, as well as a team meeting,” Hyde said pregame. “Left it up to the players to hear their thoughts and what they wanted to do. Our guys have decided they want to play, and I’m going to fully support them in that. We had an open forum, the consensus was in our room that our guys want to play.”
It's unclear what specifically changed between Hyde's Zoom call, which took place at approximately 5:10 pm, though an Orioles statement said there were further discussions had. First pitch was scheduled for 6:40.
The discussions in the clubhouse were incredibly impactful, Hyde said before the postponement.
Wearing a Negro Leagues shirt, a shirt he’s worn many times before, Hyde said he wanted to support both the Orioles’ and the league’s African-American players, as well as the movement for racial equality.
“This is tough times right now,” Hyde said. “To listen to our players talk, and their stories and their experiences, it’s very moving. This is just a difficult time that I’m learning a lot, we’re doing the best we can in our clubhouse. I feel really good about everything that’s going on in our little world, in our little clubhouse. I want our guys to know they have free expression and be free thinkers and they always have my support.”
The discussions in the locker room were powerful, emotional and hard to hear, Hyde said, but after he informed the players of what was going on around baseball, he left the floor to them. Hyde wanted to give the floor to as many players as possible to hear their stories.
“Hard to listen to,” he said of some pregame conversations. “They’re very very moving. Growing up as a white male, it’s sad. And makes you angry.”
The Orioles statement postgame read: "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 systematic racism."
Hyde, who was hired by the Orioles in December of 2018, has undergone some difficult times as a manager. He’s managed through social upheaval, a pandemic and, on the baseball side, a shortened season. He said the best thing for him, and everyone, is to simply listen.
“I think being on the coaching staff for a while, not being a manager, you watch the manager deal with different situations that come up,” Hyde said. “It’s part of the job. I don’t think it’s something you prepare for. And a situation, what we’ve dealt with this year, I'm really proud of how our organization, our coaches and players have handled everything that’s gone on this year. I think we’ve done the best we possibly could. This is something you don’t prepare for. You listen, man. You listen.”