The Major League Baseball Umpires Association on Thursday distanced itself from comments made by veteran umpire Joe West in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.
The MLBUA statement, which did not mention West by name, says the union “fully supports” the safety protocols agreed to by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association. It also said that “regardless of any umpire’s personal views, when we report for a resumed spring training and 2020 season, we will conduct ourselves as professionals and in accordance with the health and safety protocol.”
The statement comes two days after the published comments of West, who defied health experts and the Centers for Disease Control by casting doubts on the virus’ threat level.
“I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus,” West, 67, 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.'”
The CDC places West and all Americans age 65 or older into a high-risk group for the virus.
West has worked 5,310 career games, which ranks second all-time behind Bill Klem’s 5,375 games.
Umpires are scheduled to arrive at camps on Friday and will work bullpen sessions and intrasquad games once they clear testing, according to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers.