John Fogerty’s classic “Centerfield” had never meant more than this past week, when Major League Baseball returned for its 2020 season. While teams play only 60 games and stadiums have piped in crowd noise and cardboard cutout ‘fans’ in the stands, the sights and sounds are the closest fans have felt too normal in many months.
The audience was a little stiff, in comparison to previous opening day games around the league. However, teams provided the fans watching away from the ballparks and each other some exciting and controversial moments.
I’m speaking of the various pre-game activities around the league to promote Black Lives Matter.
The undertakings included moments of silence while players held a black ribbon stretching down the first and third-base lines.
Across Major League ballparks, ceremonial acts addressed the racial injustice and social upheaval blanketing America.
In a particularly poignant display, every member of the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees teams gently put down the black ribbon and took a knee. Similar actions took place across America. Major League Baseball said loudly and proudly that systemic racism and subsequent abuse of people of color is not a black problem; it is a societal problem.
Pitchers’ mounds held Black Lives Matter logos and players had options to wear ‘Black Lives Matter’ or ‘United for Change’ patches on their uniforms.
Other methods of showing player support for BLM include welcoming of shirts for batting practice reading Black Lives Matter, I Can’t Breathe, or team designed logos along with wristbands featuring an inverted MLB logo where the player is black.
In a move that the NFL could learn from, the MLB is offering players latitude with self-expression by lifting restrictions on designs permitted on player cleats.
A statement from the league explained the changes this way:
“MLB supports the players’ need to express themselves. Because the manner in which players desire to express themselves will vary among our diverse population, we want to provide flexibility for players to show their support for social justice in a way that is consistent with their individual values and personalities.”
The new socially conscious player options and MLB addressing of Black Lives Matter resonated with some fans but drew the ire of others, in particular, Donald Trump. He was decidedly kinder when addressing the kneeling and Black Lives Matter activities planned by MLB teams, than when he called NFL players who knelt ‘sons of bitches.’ In this instance, he took to social media tweeting that the players taking a knee means “the game is over for me.”
While the game may be over for some, for many fans it is a glorious return to life as we have always known it. Hat’s off to you, John Fogerty. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
“Well, beat the drum and hold the phone
The sun came out today
We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field
A-roundin’ third, and headed for home
It’s a brown-eyed handsome man
Anyone can understand the way I feel”