Royals fans react to vaccination controversy at first game back

Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 11:16 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) — Friday, the Royals we’re back at the K after a 4-game series in Toronto that brought brought national headlines because of how many players had to miss the games due to their COVID vaccination status.

Canada requires proof of COVID vaccination to enter from out of the country, as the United States does for international travelers.

Ten players sat out the four-game series due to not being vaccinated. No other MLB team so far this season had more than four players in that position.

Fans at Friday’s game were generally supportive of the players’ decisions.

“It is what it is, the vaccine.” said Derek Kohler of Platte City. “I respect the guys who stayed back and it is their choice.”

“I mean, the guys who don’t do it, that’s their choice. The guys who do do it, congrats to them,” said his friend, Garrett Schultz.

But one player’s decision got a mixed reaction from fans.

Last week second baseman Whit Merrifield made a statement explaining why he stood firm on not vaccinating, then added he’d consider it if it came down to the playoffs.

Even those who valued personal choice took issue with that remark.

“I think if he’s playing for our team, I would like to see him all in and be supportive whether we’re going to win 50 games or 100 games. I think they should all be fully committed. So if he’s willing to do it on a trade to another team, he should be willing to do it for us,” said Troy Harding of Blue Springs.

“We’re not very good right now. He’s been here for a couple years now, and we haven’t done much. You know, he hasn’t been here when we were winning. So I don’t blame him for that remark,” countered Noah Brinton of Kansas City, MO.

Merrifield clarified Friday night before the game saying it was no disrespect to the Royals.

“I poorly articulated the point I was trying to make and that was if what was standing between me and the playoffs was this vaccine, I would consider getting it. I didn’t say I would get it for another team or wouldn’t get it for this team. It was about showing how much I value playing in the playoffs,” Merrifield said.

I just think he was put in a difficult spot,” said teammate Bobby Witt, Jr. “All the guys in here respect his choices, just glad to have everyone back and have this clubhouse full again.”

The absence of so many of the big league players in Toronto gave several minor league prospects the opportunity to have their day in the sun.

One of them, first baseman Nick Pratto, was kept on to play when the team returned to Kansas City.

Rookie Vinnie Pasquantino had some idea what Pratto was likely feeling. Pasquantino was called up from the Omaha Stormchasers barely a month ago.

“He made his debut last week but it’s always special being in front of the home fans because there’s people who cheer for us and it’s exciting to put on a show for them,” Pasquantino said. “I’m sure he’s got some nerves right now, but I know this locker room has his back, we’re really excited to see what he can do because I’ve seen what he can do first-hand.”

Team management has been watching Pratto in Omaha, so it’s possible he would have been called up regardless.