Sports

‘This year opened my eyes’: MLB players who opted out of 2020 season return with new purpose

DAVID PRICE CALLED opting out of the 2020 MLB season “the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.” He felt the strain and the doubt most on Opening Day and at the start of the postseason. But when Price watched from home as Julio Urias struck out Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Willy Adames late into the night of Oct. 27, clinching the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ first World Series championship in 32 years, a strange feeling swept over him.

Relief.

“If it would’ve been any other outcome,” the Dodgers pitcher said, “I would’ve probably had a whole lot of regret and would’ve felt really bad about my decision. But whenever Julio threw that strike three, it really felt like it kind of lifted a weight off my chest.”

About two dozen players opted out of professional baseball last year amid the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of whom, like Price, were in their 30s and advanced enough in their playing careers that they could afford a year of lost compensation and service time. Two players, Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis and Miami Marlins infielder Isan Diaz, ultimately came back during the 2020 season. Many of those who stayed away returned this spring with a renewed sense of purpose. Last summer, as the sport resumed without them, they also wrestled with intermittent feelings of remorse.

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