Joe West isn’t about to let a global pandemic prevent him from calling balls and strikes.
The 67-year-old, heavyset umpire will not opt out of the 2020 season despite Major League Baseball labeling him as “high-risk” for COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites age and Body Mass Index (BMI) among the factors that could create complications for individuals who test positive for COVID-19.
Still, West doesn’t seem particularly concerned about potentially contracting SARS-CoV-2.
“If this game hasn’t gotten me by now, no virus is going to get me,” West told The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal on Monday. “I’ve weathered a bunch of storms in my life. I’ll weather another one.”
The second story:
As umpires close in on revised deal with MLB, Joe West plans to return. https://t.co/BSei2dnwpH
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 7, 2020
West said a recent physical revealed slightly elevated blood pressure, but that he took the necessary steps to reduce it to normal levels and that his heart is healthy. “Other than some creaky old knees, which I’ve had for a long time, that’s it,” West told Rosenthal.
MLB deputy Dan Halem apparently was “taken aback” by West, who is among those who are dubious about coronavirus statistics.
“(Halem) said, ‘According to our doctors, you’re high-risk,’” West, who insisted he will be careful and follow safety protocol, recalled to Rosenthal. “I said, ‘Look, most of these people that they’re reporting are dying are not healthy to begin with. I’ve lost 25 pounds over the winter. I’m playing golf every day in the heat. I’m fine. I’m not going to back down now.’
“I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus. 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 Florida native admitted his pursuit of a record is part of his motivation for not opting out. He is 65 games short of Bill Klem’s all-time mark of 5,375 umpired regular season games.
“You know I’m chasing the rainbow. I’m chasing the end of this record.”