Friday, it was reported Toronto Blue Jays players could be subject to enormous fines (up to $750,000) and even jail time for not following quarantine restrictions. That may seem excessive to some, but at least Toronto seems to be taking the coronavirus seriously. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of Florida, where Rays players including catcher Kevan Smith have been ostracized and harassed for wearing masks in public.
“Pennsylvania feels like it’s a lot different up there than down here. Obviously, the numbers are a lot worse here. But I felt like you couldn’t even walk outside without a mask on [at home],” Smith said during a Zoom call with media members Saturday. “And then here, you go out with a mask and we have guys getting called names and all of the above.”
While many have embraced the masks, owing to their obvious health benefits amid an unprecedented pandemic, a significant faction of the country has been resistant to wear them with some voicing their displeasure by making scenes in public places (the Internet has taken to calling these dissenters “Karens”). Despite claiming the third-most coronavirus cases behind only New York and California (the latter nearly double Florida’s population), the Sunshine State continues to eschew safety measures considered commonplace elsewhere. In fact, Smith and his teammates have sensed hostility from locals since returning to Tampa for training camp earlier this month.
“[A teammate] was in a store shopping for food and was called a pansy,” recalled the veteran backstop. “I went out briefly just to pick up some takeout food and I swear I got a dozen eyeballs looking at me like I’m weird walking in with a mask.”
Forgoing a mask in the midst of a global health crisis is irresponsible and selfish enough, but doing so while shaming those who care enough about the wellbeing of others to wear one out in public? This sentiment is likely why we’re still in this predicament while countless other countries have already put the coronavirus in the rearview mirror.
“It’s just comical,” said Smith, a .272 lifetime hitter with 12 homers and 71 RBI over 654 big-league at-bats between the White Sox and Angels. “It’s going on all over the world. We’re seeing it firsthand here, so we’ve just got to stick within our realm and just do what we’ve got to do to stay responsible and everything should be fine.”
With Smith and his Tampa Bay teammates getting heckled for the simple and commendable act of wearing a mask, it’s no wonder players like Buster Posey and David Price are opting out of the 2020 MLB season.