Colorado Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond will not take part in the coronavirus-shortened baseball season, he announced Monday, citing concerns for his family amid the pandemic, as well as racial injustice and economic issues in his native Florida and around the country.
‘The COVID-19 pandemic has made this baseball season one that is a risk I am not comfortable taking,’ he wrote on Instagram.
Desmond added, ‘With a pregnant wife and four young children who have lots of questions about what’s going on in the world, home is where I need to be right now. Home for my wife, Chelsey. Home to help. Home to guide. Home to answer my older three boys’ questions about Coronavirus and Civil Rights and life. Home to be their Dad.’
Desmond, a biracial man who grew up in Sarasota, Florida, also wrote about his feelings in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, recalling his experiences with racism.
Specifically he detailed his feelings about baseball’s discriminatory issues and the financial friction between players and owners.
‘Right now in baseball we’ve got a labor war,’ he wrote. ‘We’ve got rampant individualism on the field. In clubhouses we’ve got racist, sexist, homophobic jokes or flat-out problems. We’ve got cheating. We’ve got a minority issue from the top down. One African American GM. Two African American managers. Less than 8 percent Black players. No Black majority team owners.
‘Perhaps most disheartening of all is a puzzling lack of focus on how to change those numbers. A lack of focus on making baseball accessible and possible for all kids, not just those who are privileged enough to afford it.
‘If baseball is America’s pastime, maybe it’s never been a more fitting one than now.’
Desmond, 34, wrote further about the unequal playing fields – literally – for children in poorer areas.
‘Why can’t we support teaching the game to all kids — but especially those in underprivileged communities?’ Desmond wrote. ‘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? It’s hard to wrap your head around it.’
He added that he plans to work this year to improve youth baseball in Sarasota.
Desmond was due to make $15 million in 2020 had a full season been played, so he is giving up a prorated salary of $5.56 million for the 60-game schedule set to start late next month.
His five-year, $70 million contract runs through 2021, when he is due to make $8 million. The Rockies hold a $15 million club option for 2022 with a $2 million buyout.
An All-Star with the Washington Nationals in 2012 and with the Texas Rangers in 2016, Desmond has made more than $76 million in annual salaries, according to baseball-reference.com.
A third-round draft pick of the Montreal Expos in 2004, Desmond broke into the majors with Washington in 2009 and stayed with the Nationals through 2015. He played just one year in Texas before signing a free agent deal with the Rockies in December 2016.
Last year, Desmond hit .255 with a .310 on-base percentage, a .479 slugging percentage, 20 homers and 65 RBIs in 140 games. In 1,478 career games over 11 major league seasons, he has a .263/.315/.427 batting line with 181 homers and 711 RBIs.