Concerns over the Zika virus have been a big part of the conversation leading up to the Rio Olympics, and now the disease could have an affect on the MLB as well.
The Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins are scheduled to play a two-game series in Puerto Rico later this month. However, the virus has been transmitted locally in Puerto Rico, and the Pirates have expressed reservations about playing the games as scheduled.
The teams are supposed to play in San Juan on May 30-31 as a celebration of the late Pirate legend and Puerto Rican hero, Roberto Clemente. Still, the CDC said 445 cases of the virus have been reported in the island nation since April 13, and players from both teams have expressed reservations about the trip.
“Right now, no, we don’t want to,” said reliever Tony Watson, who has assisted Major League Baseball Players Association representative Gerrit Cole in gathering information about potential exposure to the virus. “We don’t want to go down there, because there’s too much risk. We don’t have all the facts either. We’ll see where it goes.”
The virus is primarily spread through mosquitos, but can also be transmitted sexually. While it is not a huge risk for the players themselves — the disease is relatively mild — it can cause serious birth defects if contracted by a pregnant woman. It is not hard to see how men in their 20s and 30s would be concerned with this virus and its potential to harm their ability to have a healthy family.
“It’s very important to each guy in here. We’re kind of in an interesting situation age-wise,” Watson said. “We’re going to keep working through it. I know now the CDC’s on it and is informing us whenever they get new facts and whatnot.”
Asked if the players would boycott the trip if it was to go ahead despite concerns, Watson said, “I hope we don’t have to get there. I guess you never know.”
The MLB said in a statement it will continue to monitor the situation, but no decision to cancel the trip has been made.