Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis, concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic, has elected not to play in the shortened 2020 MLB season, manager Brian Snitker announced Monday.
Markakis, 36, is the second Atlanta player to make that decision in recent days, joining veteran pitcher Felix Hernandez. Both elected to bypass the 2020 season after the Braves announced that four players, including All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman, had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Because he isn’t deemed “high risk,” Markakis won’t be paid for the 2020 season, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reported. In addition to Freeman, Will Smith, Pete Kozma and Touki Toussaint were the Braves who tested positive for COVID-19.
Atlanta first-base coach Eric Young Sr. also plans to skip the season.
“I think the biggest thing is I talked to Freddie Freeman, just hearing the way he sounded on the phone, it kind of opened my eyes,” Markakis said. “Freddie didn’t sound good. I hope he’s doing good. I hope he’s healthy. These guys need him more than anybody. Just hearing him and the way he sounded on the phone, it was tough and eye-opening. With everything that’s going on, not just baseball, but in the world, it makes you open your eyes.
“I’ve got three kids that I’ve missed for 11 years now. I love the game. I love competing every day. But the biggest thing in my decision is we play this game for the fans. To be able to go out there on a daily basis and compete and entertain for them, that’s what it’s all about. To have to go out there and not have them part of that, it’s tough. I think that was kind of my ultimate decision. We play for the fans. To take them out of the equation, it’s tough.”
Markakis has played 14 MLB seasons and has 2,355 career hits. He hit .285 with nine home runs and 62 RBIs last season and was an All-Star selection in 2018.