After their first team meeting on Thursday afternoon, the Orioles decided to play last night against the Tampa Bay Rays. But upon heading out to batting practice and during BP, more conversations took place in smaller groups. The players then asked manager Brandon Hyde to hold a players-only meeting and they did.
More thoughts and emotions were expressed. It appears some players that perhaps hadn’t expressed much earlier were ready to do so then. Later we would learn the Orioles decided not to play the game.
It was a day where sports and life collided. Emotions were raw and real.
“You could see in their faces that there was a ton of emotion in the room. And they decided they wanted to postpone,” Hyde said of the clubhouse mood when he entered after the second meeting.
The Orioles would join other Major League Baseball teams and players that chose to not play. They chose to join the fight to eliminate racial injustice, intensified after Sunday’s police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.
Right-hander Alex Cobb is one of most thoughtful and articulate players in the clubhouse. He always seems to provide real insight when he pitches. Last night he provided reporters real insight of what took place in that clubhouse.
Cobb has Black teammates but is also the brother of a police officer.
“I’m learning to not look at it through those lenses anymore,” he said. “I think in the beginning, you had to be one side or the other - you had to be for our police or for our inner-city communities. I just don’t think that was the right way to look at things. I will always respect every single person that puts on a uniform and goes out to protect us. But I also have had too many moments where I look into my teammates eyes or my friends eyes that, I can see they are dealing with some real struggles and you know, that their hearts are heavy.
“We need to find a way to start the conversation of mending the two sides rather than picking a side. You know, I don’t know what that avenue is. It’s something that is evolving each day. What we are seeing in our communities and now with our athletes, there was a lot of friction before. And I think that it’s starting to mend a little bit and I think that’s a good first step. But I pray that we’re able to find a way for everybody to just love everybody.
“It was a different feel when we came back in from BP. I’ve had a lot of great conversations with some great teammates. You know, I’m very thankful for all that. But today was a lot of people interacting that may have not interacted previously.”
One aspect of the conversation that Cobb was not comfortable with sharing with reporters was which player or players led all of this, if there were any.
“I appreciate the question. We, as a group, have kind of decided to keep that in-house,” he said. “I think the idea of this is to be a team and not to highlight any individual or what they did or did not. Or where their stance is.”
Hyde, a second-year manager, has had a lot thrown at him in this shortened 2020 season. The shutdown of the game in March, Trey Mancini’s cancer diagnosis, games canceled and rescheduled, and now dealing with the emotions of his players in recent days.
Cobb said Hyde handled it all beautifully.
“He brings guys in individually. He talks to us a group,” Cobb said. “I can see it weighing on him at times and I think today was emotional for him. But every single situation he’s handled with class and with a lot respect for everybody involved.”
Readers here know I try to avoid heavy topics such as this one on this blog. I prefer we keep the talk to baseball. I hope we find our way back to that. But it is unavoidable today and I won’t run or hide from it.
I’ll share my thoughts on the last few days.
I think we’ve seen pro athletes who have a huge following try to use their platform for progress and change. In a baseball clubhouse, you see players of different races and players from different nations. Some were raised in a wealthy family and some were raised in very poor families. They come from different backgrounds and with some very different experiences in life.
Without being there to know beyond what the players and Hyde have told us, it sure seems the Orioles yesterday found a way to truly hear from one another, listen and try to understand each other. This was not nearly a first for this squad. But an already close-knit team drew even closer.
The players, it appeared, voiced displeasure with systematic racism and some may have even shared personal experiences. Being against racism is not about politics. No party affiliation should be for or against racism or injustice. Why should someone feel a certain way about someone because of how they look?
Some fans have said we need to keep politics out of sports. For me, last night was about empathy and feeling for fellow humans and citizens, and had nothing to do with a political agenda, party or platform.
On a day they didn’t take the field, the Orioles gave their fans a reason to be proud. Maybe more than any other day during this season.
The tweets below provide some of the post-cancellation comments from the Orioles in Zoom interviews last night.
“It’s my job to support our players to the utmost, to communicate with our players as well as I possibly can, and I feel that we’ve done that. I’m really proud of our players.”-- Baltimore Orioles 😷 (@Orioles) August 28, 2020
Brandon Hyde on tonight’s postponed game: pic.twitter.com/UKrlOoHLis
“I think what our team wants people to know on the outside is that we all bleed the same blood. We are all one and we are all the same. We are all just trying to come together right now.”-- Baltimore Orioles 😷 (@Orioles) August 28, 2020
Dillion Tate on tonight’s postponed game: pic.twitter.com/tljKfMjL9q
“In the beginning you had to be one side or the other... And I don’t think that was the right way to look at things... We have to find a way to start the conversation of mending the two sides rather than picking a side.” pic.twitter.com/MtpTsIgbeo-- Baltimore Orioles 😷 (@Orioles) August 28, 2020