White Sox give COVID vaccine to players, staff, with huge buy-in

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Vinnie Duber
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Sox send positive message with huge COVID vaccine buy-in originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The White Sox are doing their part to help bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, both in their clubhouse and in their community.

The team announced Sunday morning that Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines were administered to players and staff following Thursday's home opener at Guaranteed Rate Field.

While Major League Baseball is not mandating that players and staff receive vaccines, they have been strongly recommended. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said that "well in excess of 90 percent" of the team's traveling party has been vaccinated.

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Hahn and the team view the huge buy-in as a strong, positive statement to the South Side community, Chicago as a whole and White Sox fans everywhere.

"We think it's great. We think it's a great message to the community, and we think it's a great message to each other about being a good teammate," Hahn said. "There's obviously individual benefits to anyone — players included, staff included — who gets vaccinated, even individual benefits under the protocols that we're all working under at this point.

"But it goes beyond that. It goes beyond what it does for the individual and goes to protecting each other and protecting the community around us. And the level of buy-in we had in our clubhouse was remarkable and something that everyone down there should be very, very proud of."

Baseball has been dealing with significant restrictions and safety protocols since the beginning of the pandemic last spring. The 2020 season was shortened by the pandemic, not beginning until late July, and anyone working in a ballpark dealt with those protocols, which have carried over into the 2021 season, even though it started on time and with fans in the stands.

The league and players' association informed players before the regular season began that once 85 percent of the people in "Tier 1" — which includes players and on-field and clubhouse staff — of a given organization have been vaccinated, those restrictions can start to be relaxed.

Hahn said that the 85-percent mark applies to not only those "Tier 1" people at Guaranteed Rate Field and traveling with the White Sox but also those working at the team's alternate training site in Schaumburg. The White Sox have been able to offer vaccines to "a good number" of those working in Schaumburg but not everyone, according to Hahn, meaning the team has not yet reached that 85-percent number.

According to White Sox infielder Danny Mendick, there was a desire among the players to reach that 85-percent threshold and return to some of the regular aspects of ballpark life.

"I think it’s pretty cool to see that all the guys pretty much went in there and got the vaccine for everybody else," Mendick said. "It helps for families, for road trips and different things like that. It shows that everyone has bought in. We've got a 162-game season, so it’s great to get it started like this."

The White Sox strategized to have the vaccines administered, with the help of the city and Rush University Medical Center, the day prior to the first off day on the South Side, as to protect against any players being sidelined with side effects. Hahn said that after an off day Friday and a rainout Saturday, everyone on the team's active roster was available for Sunday's game against the Kansas City Royals.

While there were baseball-related benefits to the players and staff members receiving the vaccines, both Mendick and Hahn talked about the desire to not just bring about positive results in the clubhouse but to do good for the folks outside the stadium walls, too.

"There is a sense of relief, sense of joy, sense of feeling like you did the right thing for those around you, for your family, for your co-workers, for your community, and makes it feel like you're a little bit closer to the end of what's been an extraordinarily trying time for everyone," Hahn said. "So I think there's reason to celebrate, regardless of the 85 percent, and it's sort of a personal triumph, I think, for each individual who elects to participate."

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