The Environment Affects Baseball. These Players Want to Help.
From (David P.)@21:1/5 to All on Thu Oct 7 01:05:47 2021
The Environment Affects Baseball. These Players Want to Help.
By James Wagner, 9/30/21, NY Times
Flying all over North America every week is part of being
a major leaguer. The Milwaukee Brewers, for instance,
traveled as far away as San Diego and Miami as part of
their 162-game regular season this year. Now multiply that
by 30 teams across Major League Baseball.
Brewers reliever Brent Suter can’t help but think about
how much fuel is burned and how many emissions spewed
during all of those flights. As he has helped the Brewers
reach the postseason for a franchise-record 4th straight
season, he worries about the planet.
“The fact that you can just go wherever you like, it’s just
not sustainable,” he said before a recent game. “We can’t
just keep adding carbon to the atmosphere & not offsetting
it & not set limits on curbing it in any industries, & still
searching every nook & cranny of the globe for fossil fuels.”
As human activity continues changing the climate — hotter
summers, stronger hurricanes, more flooding, wildlife at
greater risk — no part of society will be unaffected. That
includes baseball, where the majority of M.L.B. games are
at the mercy of the elements at outdoor stadiums. The sport
has already seen some of those effects.
“We were in Oakland last year getting ready for the series,
& we had batting practice canceled both days & almost had
the games canceled because of smoke from the wildfires.
And the air quality was so bad,” shortstop Nick Ahmed of
the Arizona Diamondbacks said of the fires in California
at the time. “I know that’s been an issue up there as well
this year. Hopefully people wake up and understand that
our planet needs to be cared for in a great way.”
Around M.L.B. clubhouses — where topics like the environment
don’t come up often — a few players have been alarmed by
the state of the globe and are trying to do something about
it, even in modest ways. While players said the most power
to make change lay with larger bodies — governments,
corporations, leagues, teams — several are leading efforts
inside and outside their clubhouses.
While with the Detroit Tigers, Daniel Norris, now a
Brewers reliever, said he used to provide his teammates &
key staff members with reusable mugs a company had given
him. And when he saw teammates shoot used water bottles
into a trash bin, Norris used humor to remind them of
the impact of their choices.
“I’m like, ‘That’s a sick shot, but it would've been sicker
if you recycled it, you know?’” Norris, 28, said earlier
this year, adding later, “And if I do it enough, then
maybe they’ll finally change or if they see me go & grab
their bottle out of the trash can & put it in the recycling.”
Suter, 32, who studied environmental science & public policy
at Harvard, said he constantly told his teammates to refill
their plastic bottles from the water coolers rather than
reaching for a new one. “I don’t want to be, like, too
annoying about it,” he said, “but it’s got to be said.”
The amount of waste produced in clubhouses spurred Chris
Dickerson to form a nonprofit called Players for the Planet,
which Norris, Suter and others joined. While Dickerson was
with the Louisville Bats, the Class AAA affiliate of the
Cincinnati Reds, before his major-league call-up in 2008,
he had a locker near a trash can in the clubhouse. He
cringed at what he witnessed.
After batting practice on a hot, humid day, Dickerson, 39,
counted 500 bottles thrown away. In an average week, he
estimated 2,000 bottles were tossed. Between 120 minor
league & 30 major league teams, he started to add up the
estimated 300,000 bottles players used every day.
“And we play 162 games,” he said.
Over the years, Dickerson helped build a network of
athletes, now numbering nearly 100, who felt similarly
about green initiatives. The nonprofit has, among other
projects, organized collections for electronic waste,
helped some M.L.B. teams with their own environmental
efforts, led tree planting, created an online course in
Spanish about plastic pollution for players at academies
in the Dominican Republic, and held beach cleanups there
with major and minor league players.
“In our case, Dominicans, we’re an island, & waste affects
us more than anyone,” Nelson Cruz, 41, a slugger for the
Tampa Bay Rays who took part in a cleanup in 2019 along
with Amed Rosario, said earlier this year. “All that
trash that we throw away returns to us.”
With the help of Dickerson, Ahmed said he pushed the
Diamondbacks to install more recycling bins in the food
room & clubhouse. During the pandemic, Ahmed became annoyed
with what he saw as the reliance on single-use plastics
in clubhouses skyrocketing out of fear of transmitting
“I’m trying to encourage my teammates to do the same
things I’m doing by using canteens,” said Ahmed, 31, who
first began focusing on the planet’s health a few years
ago when he sought out healthier & more sustainable foods.
“And then you just tell guys to recycle & to think about
it. Nobody responds well to getting hit over the head &
told to do something.”
Suter said players had become more open to discussing the
planet. Back in 2016, he was teased by teammates for
bringing food to the clubhouse in reusable containers &
talking about the environment.
During his 15 years in pro baseball, including parts of
7 seasons in the majors, Dickerson said he felt there was
a group of “good old boys” in clubhouses who thought of
climate change as “a myth made up by Democrats” or
“some hippie nonsense.”
“But now,” he said, “as it affects your hunting in the
off-season, & you see how it’s changing, you see the fires
that affect the wildlife, the deer that you hunt, the fish
that you catch. Then it’s a problem, & then you’re going
to be like, ‘Oh, man, there might be something to this.’”
Norris, in particular, has seen firsthand how the planet
has changed. While pursing his passions of surfing & nature
photography, he said, he has learned more about the health
of the oceans & seen more plastic in the water, which he
called “disgusting.” He said he'd seen surf breaks around
the world ruined because of changing sandbars or damaged
“I’m outside most of my life,” he said. “I don’t really
hang out or watch Netflix. Surfing & hiking — all that
stuff is a huge part of my life. I appreciate it, & I want
to take care of as long as I can. Generations past us want
to enjoy that, too. But if it’s changing so fast, then
they’re not going to have that passion.”
While surfing in Nicaragua, Norris said he saw a valuable
lesson: People used materials for as long as possible —
the opposite of the throwaway culture of other countries.
He said it could be tough to be green in the majors, where
the average salary is over $4 million a year, some players
show off their many flashy outfits & gas-guzzling cars,
& apparel companies constantly send players gear.
(Several players said they donated their old or unused
gear to minor league players, who earn a pittance of the
major league salaries. Cruz said he also donated his spare
gear in his home country.)
Norris, who doesn’t own a home & spends his off-seasons
living out of a van with solar panels, said if he bought
clothes, it was from companies that use recycled materials,
like board shorts made from old fishnets. The boots he
wears away from the field are resoled so he can use them
for 10 to 15 years. He still uses the two suits that
Justin Verlander, a former Tigers teammate, bought him
when he was a rookie to wear on team flights. “The only
other suit I bought was from a thrift store,” he said.
To cut down on his carbon footprint, Suter drives an
electric car. He said his home in Cincinnati had solar
panels, & he helped start an initiative called Sidelining
Carbon, which raises money to buy carbon credits to offset
professional sports travel.
Regarding the future, Suter & Dickerson said, they worry
about how climate change will further encroach on their
planet & sport, with hot days making it harder for players
to train & spectators to watch.
But during last year’s pandemic-shortened season, Suter
said he saw what could be a glimpse at the future. Teams
traveled only regionally during the regular season,
regardless of traditional divisions, & the postseason was
held at neutral sites in Southern California and Texas,
cutting down on emissions. An added benefit: Shorter travel
meant players had more time to recover.
“There’s going to be growing pains,” Suter said. “It’s just
a matter how severe we want those to be, because if we wait
& wait, it’s just going to be borderline apocalyptic.”
“I'd appreciate that just from a travel perspective, & our
planet would as well,” Ahmed said of reducing travel. “So
that’s a good idea. I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-
all or a one-step solution to fix things. But little things
like that, that can get changed along the way, can hopefully
add up to cumulative big change.”