The May 30-31 Puerto Rico MLB series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins has been canceled, officials said Friday. After several players expressed fears of contracting Zika virus, players union representative asked MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to move the series back to Marlins Park.
“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,” read a joint MLB/MLBPA statement.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly expressed his disappointment over canceling the games, but said in a statement, “You trust the process, that the union and the league are going to do what’s best for everyone, and make sure they take care of everyone.”
Pirates president Frank Coonelly also expressed his disappointment, saying players were very much looking forward to the opportunity to play on the island. “However, the health and safety of our traveling party must be and is our first priority. As a result, the Pirates fully support the decision by the Commissioner and the Players Association to postpone the trip to San Juan.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Puerto Rico is on Alert Level 2, with over 700 confirmed cases in the country to date. Travelers are encouraged to take extra precautions against mosquito bites. Brazil shares this alert categorization, and those traveling to Rio de Janeiro for the Summer 2016 Olympics should heed the same precautions.
But Milton Segarra, president and CEO of Meet Puerto Rico, said he is “profoundly disappointed” in the decision to cancel the game.
“We understand the serious potential of this virus,” he said, insisting, “Puerto Rico has undertaken major efforts – including the collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Puerto Rico Department of Health to combat the virus and prevent it from spreading any further.” According to Segarra, “hypothetical projections and worst-case scenarios are scaring our potential visitors.”
Segarra also pointed out the rising Zika threat in “all but 10 states of the United States … including Florida (Miami) where this game is being moved.”
“In fact,” he said, “the state of Florida has had a public health emergency in effect since February in four counties who reported confirmed Zika cases,” including Miami-Dade County, home to Marlins Park.
The Puerto Rico exhibition series was scheduled in honor of legendary Pirates right fielder Roberto Clemente, and coincided with the 15th anniversary of Roberto Clemente Day, Segarra said. The teams will now play four games, through June 2, at Marlins Park, but plans to host several youth baseball and community events in Puerto Rico later this month, to include appearances from Manfred and former players. The MLB has also announced it will donate to the CDC Foundation to continue the fight against Zika virus in the country.