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Amidst Zika Virus Concerns, MLB Moves Puerto Rico Games

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Amidst concerns over reports of the Zika virus in Puerto Rico, a planned May 30-31 series between the Miami Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates has been relocated. The pair of games will now be played at Marlins Park.

Prior to the initial announcement, several reports had indicated that the series would be moved from San Juan’s Hiram Bithorn Stadium. The Zika virus has become more prevalent in Puerto Rico this spring, with the death of a man in late April being confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the first in a United States territory that came as a result of the disease.

The risk of transmitting the Zika virus was one of the issues at hand for players, and those with pregnant spouses or families were apparently urged to take extra precautions. Once the Pirates and the Marlins mutually agreed to withdraw from the series, Major League Baseball and the Players Association decided to relocate the games.

A joint release from MLB and the Players Association said, in part, “After discussing the issue with all involved parties, and consulting with federal and Puerto Rican government officials at the highest levels, Commissioner [Rob] Manfred decided that the players who objected to the trip because of their specific family situations should not be forced to travel to Puerto Rico. Because too many regulars on both Clubs fell into that category, Commissioner Manfred had no choice but to relocate the games.

“Commissioner Manfred and the MLBPA fully understand the disappointment by those in Puerto Rico to the relocation of the games. MLB and the Players Association did everything possible to adequately address the concerns raised by players and still play the games in Puerto Rico, but despite extensive efforts, they were unable to develop a workable solution. The parties will continue to support the growth of the game in Puerto Rico, where an outstanding baseball tradition has long made the island an important venue for the game. MLB looks forward to returning to play games in Puerto Rico in the near future.”

It was a disappointing outcome for many. While Puerto Rico was understandably excited for the series, the league saw it as a way to honor the legacy of Roberto Clemente, with the May 31 game taking place as part of a league-wide remembrance of Clemente. Clemente’s son Luis expressed his disappointment with the decision over the weekend, telling the Pittsburgh Tribune “I was born being part of the Pirates, and we’ve always had a solid relationship. But as a Puerto Rican who lives in Puerto Rico, I can tell you there’s great disgust over what has transpired, and I can understand it.”

Players were briefed by the CDC before making the decision. While there had been hope that the games would be played as scheduled, the CDC’s guidelines were a factor in the decision. More from the Miami Herald:

Marlins pitcher Tom Koehler, the team’s union representative, said earlier this week that players became even more concerned after hearing the CDC official describe the situation in Puerto Rico and what precautions would need to be taken if the games had been played.

“It’s ironic that athletes are willing to go to Brazil to the Olympics and don’t want to come to Puerto Rico,” Puerto Rico governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla recently told local newspaper El Nuevo Dia.

The virus is spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes and can cause birth defects, and even death.

“There are a lot of precautions that would need to be taken,” Koehler said. “There was a recommendation to stay in the hotel room and kind of go from the hotel to the field on the bus. They told people if they had a pregnant spouse, that the spouse should not go on the trip.”

The two contests will begin a four-game series between the Marlins and the Pirates in Miami.

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