The coronavirus continues to take a toll on the start of the upcoming shortened MLB season.
Eleven MLB umpires are opting out of the 2020 season, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.
“Some are said to have family members who are ill,” Heyman tweeted.
Like the players, umpires can opt out with full pay if they are determined to belong to a high-risk group due to preexisting health conditions. Those who aren’t high-risk can opt out but won’t be paid.
The loss equates to 12.2% of the current umpire roster, according to MLB.com, which features the bios of 90 umpires. Of that roster, several umpires are reported to have 30+ years of experience, and they can potentially be at risk for major illness, if they contract the virus. People in their 60s or 70s are, in general, at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s, according to CDC coronavirus guidelines. The greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is among those aged 85 or older.
During the 2019 season, the 76 full-time umpires had an average age of 49. More than half were 55 or older, led by 66-year-olds Gerry Davis and Joe West, according to the Wall Street Journal. West, now 67, recently said he would not opt out despite being deemed high-risk.
“I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus,” West, who reportedly didn’t wear a mask behind home plate in Tampa Monday, told The Athletic. “I believe it may have contributed to some of the deaths. I said, ‘I’m not going to opt out. I’m going to work. And I’m going to work until you take me off the field or I get hurt, whatever. I’m working.’”