Adrian Sutherland

Open Letter to Fans From Major League Baseball Commissioner

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Major League Baseball (MLB) opened its 2021 season at the beginning of April, and commissioner Rob Manfred wrote an open letter to fans to welcome them back and outline some of its COVID-19 protocols and philanthropic initiatives.

The shortened 2020 season was primarily played in stadiums with no fans in an effort to curtail the potential spread of the coronavirus, but this year all 30 ballparks are allowing a limited number of people in to watch each game.

“We are hopeful that hearing the sounds of a ballgame in-person represents important progress towards a 2021 that looks and feels closer to normalcy,” wrote Manfred, who succeeded Bud Selig as commissioner in 2015.

MLB, its teams and players have worked closely with communities in need and have helped increase public testing capacities, provided more than U.S.$75 million in support to local service organizations, and made more than 20,000 free COVID-19 tests available for schools, youth academies, charities and other community organizations.

Once vaccines became available, 11 teams opened their stadiums to serve as mass vaccination sites, with more than a million doses being administered at the venues.

MLB’s efforts to battle COVID-19 will continue throughout this season. It will donate U.S.$1.5 million worth of tickets to frontline and essential workers in appreciation of their efforts.

“Please keep wearing your masks and looking out for one another,” Manfred wrote in his letter to encourage fans to reduce health risks.

“I also want to extend my appreciation to all the players for their commitment to the health and safety protocols developed by our medical experts that allowed us to finish a safe Spring Training. We were able to complete last year's season due to the sacrifices made by our players and staff to protect each other. We know that this year will require a redoubling of those efforts and that we’ll need to be flexible and adapt to challenges as they arise - and we will, together.”

Canada’s only MLB team, the Toronto Blue Jays, has started its season playing home games in its spring training stadium, TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Fla., since Canadian-American border closure measures prevent teams from easily going back and forth between the two countries.

Manfred also reinforced MLB’s commitment to an American organization of local chapters, founded in 1860, which provides voluntary after-school programs for young people.

“We are also excited to mark the 25th anniversary of our partnership with Boys & Girls Club of America by renewing our relationship, donating millions of dollars for grant opportunities for workforce development and youth baseball and softball, and raising awareness for a remarkable organization that keeps kids safe by providing a positive environment where they can learn, play and grow,” he wrote.

MLB made non-sports page headlines on April 2 when it announced that it was moving the July 13 All-Star Game from Atlanta, Ga. due to its objections to recent changes in Georgia’s voting laws that many people feel are too restrictive.

The legislation imposes voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, empowers state officials to take over local elections boards, limits the use of ballot drop boxes and makes it a crime to approach voters to give them food and water as they wait in line.

Manfred made the decision to move the All-Star events and the amateur draft from Atlanta after discussions with individual players and the Players Alliance, an organization of Black players formed after the death of George Floyd last year, he said in a statement.

"I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year's All-Star Game and MLB draft," Manfred said. "Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box."

It was announced on April 5 that Coors Field in Denver, Colo. will now host the All-Star Game.

Read the full letter below:

To our fans:

On behalf of our Clubs, players and all of us at Major League Baseball, welcome to a very special Opening Day. This spring provides a moment to celebrate hope - not just for our favorite teams, but for our society as we emerge from a difficult year full of hardships and pain. We extend our gratitude for the sacrifices of the countless heroes who helped get us here. 

We are excited to embark on the 2021 season, with new rivalries and the young superstars who are making a significant impact on our game. But, most important of all, we are thrilled to welcome fans back to all 30 of our ballparks. Baseball fans bring so much energy to the park, and our game is so much better with that passion in the stands. We are hopeful that hearing the sounds of a ballgame in-person represents important progress towards a 2021 that looks and feels closer to normalcy. 

On the field, I can't wait to see the incredible stars of our sport playing the game at a remarkably high level. From veteran MVP-caliber players like Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, to young stars like Fernando Tatis Jr., Juan Soto and Ronald Acuña Jr., to name just a few, our fans will be watching outstanding athletes who will be remembered for generations. With storylines everywhere for our fans - a new marquee rivalry in Southern California, the star power of the NL East, the return of Trey Mancini, the excitement of Shohei Ohtani, the chases for 3,000 by Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer, and the many All-Stars debuting with new teams - it's a great time for baseball. 

Off the field, baseball has demonstrated its commitment to rising to the occasion to meet the challenges caused by the pandemic. MLB, our Clubs and our players have worked hand-in-hand with communities in need across the country. We helped increase public testing capacities, provided more than $75 million in support to local service organizations and made more than 20,000 free COVID-19 tests available for schools, youth academies, charities and other community organizations. Once vaccines became available, 11 of our Clubs opened their ballparks to serve as mass vaccination sites in their communities, with more than a million doses being administered at our venues. 

This work will continue throughout the 2021 season as we continue our fight against COVID-19. We're proud to announce that this year, Major League Baseball will be donating $1.5 million worth of tickets to frontline and essential workers throughout the season in our appreciation for their herculean efforts. We are also excited to mark the 25th anniversary of our partnership with Boys & Girls Club of America by renewing our relationship, donating millions of dollars for grant opportunities for workforce development and youth baseball and softball, and raising awareness for a remarkable organization that keeps kids safe by providing a positive environment where they can learn, play and grow.

In times of challenge, America's Pastime has given us something to root for and a common bond within our communities. It makes friends out of total strangers. It creates shared memories with the people we love. Most importantly, it also gives us hope - whether in the form of a late-inning comeback, a pennant race or the promise of better days ahead after a long winter. Like last year, we also hope that our platform provides a positive visual example of the necessary steps to preserve health and safety.  

I want to thank you, our fans, for supporting this game we love over the past year. Please keep wearing your masks and looking out for one another. I also want to extend my appreciation to all the players for their commitment to the health and safety protocols developed by our medical experts that allowed us to finish a safe Spring Training. We were able to complete last year's season due to the sacrifices made by our players and staff to protect each other. We know that this year will require a redoubling of those efforts and that we’ll need to be flexible and adapt to challenges as they arise - and we will, together. 

So, as we start a new season of baseball, I'm excited to once again say:

Play ball!

Robert D. Manfred, Jr.
Commissioner of Baseball 

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