CHICAGO — Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said he understands the controversy surrounding his decision not to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but explained that he is “taking a little more time to see the data in it” .
The Cubs are one of eight baseball teams that have failed to reach the 85% vaccination threshold, which would allow for an easing of restrictions. They still have to wear face masks in the dugout and need permission to leave their hotel en route, for example.
Rizzo, 31, is a cancer survivor who regularly meets with young cancer patients, although that has been suspended during the pandemic. He said he knows his decision not to get the vaccine has provoked strong reactions from both sides of the debate, adding that he is “definitely not against getting it”.
“I love my teammates and this franchise,” he said after the Cubs’ 8-5 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday. “This is bigger than baseball. This is a life decision. It weighed heavily. It’s a decision I’ve made and I stand by, and it’s clear that there are people who are going to hate me and think I’m disgusting. people who are on my side, but it’s out in the open.”
Rizzo didn’t get specific with his reasons for not taking the vaccine. He and his teammates have had an ongoing discussion about hitting the 85% threshold. Shortstop Javier Baez does vaccine awareness PSAs.
“We’re discussing it,” Baez said. “If you want to call it, ‘we argued about it,’ but in the end we respect each other.
“He just doesn’t believe in it right now, and we respect his decision. … The vaccine was made pretty quickly and a lot of people don’t believe in it. I’m vaccinated because I have kids and I want to protect them.”
Rizzo didn’t seem to be against the vaccine per se. In fact, he was excited to see Wrigley Field at 100% capacity for one of his most memorable at bats. With the Cubs trailing 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth, Rizzo saw 13 pitches by reliever Daniel Ponce de Leon before moving the 14th to rightfield to tie the game.
“By the fifth, sixth, seventh throw, everyone started to get into it more,” recalls Rizzo. “It almost helped me calm down and relax in a way. I kept saying to myself, ‘Stay locked up, stay locked up.’
Cubs manager David Ross compared the at bat to a then teammate Alex Cora had with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004, who took 18 pitches.
“I’ll remember this one for a long time,” Ross said.
Rizzo added, “It was definitely one of my most memorable at bats.”
Rizzo made a mistake on six pitches in a row before taking ball 2, then made three more before going deep.
“I’ve seen all his throws, so it was just a matter of hitting one,” Rizzo explained. “He’s flirted well with an up, where it’s too close to take. Luckily, for me, I put a good swing on it and had a good result.”
The home run came after Rizzo revealed on his own paid radio segment on ESPN 1000 in Chicago that he had not taken the vaccine.
“I think when you come up with a decision that’s the big topic, it’s somehow not easy,” Rizzo said. “This is a big topic. A lot of lives are being saved by this vaccine. There are a lot of people getting back to normal lives. That’s what we want.”
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