BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Bakersfield’s independent professional baseball team, the Bakersfield Train Robbers, are among the latest group to have a COVID-19 outbreak.
Ten players from the team have tested positive for COVID-19 but on top of that two of the players say they were released from the team with no warning or even a phone call with an explanation as to why.
“It hurts honestly. It hurts bad,” said former Bakersfield Train Robbers outfielder Malcolm Smith.
Smith and Clarence Carter III started playing for the Train Robbers in June, helping the team become Pacific Division champs. But despite all that they say they won’t be able to join their brothers for the playoffs starting August 5th.
“Supposedly, we pretty much just got released without any warning, without any thought or anything said to us because our manager is pretty much blaming that we gave eight other people COVID on our team," said Carter. "Which we have no control over catching it our handing it out to others.”
Both Smith and Carter say they tested positive for COVID-19 last week and once they found out they say they immediately told their coach and teammates.
When asked if they had seen any of their teammates since the positive test, both men said no.
But despite not seeing their teammates for nearly a week their manager removed them from the group chat early Thursday morning and sent a text after removing them.
“The next few days will be a huge test for y'all. You will have to find a way to be motivated. I would be there if I could but I chose integrity over selfishness by informing y'all my test came back positive tonight," read Carter from the text that was sent out. ”I would rather bend over and take a beating for the next five days than put any of y'all at risk and jeopardize the rest of our season. Now there are eight of us who are sick because some people knew they were sick and were selfish enough to still show up.”
“That was sent out right after we got released. We got released, that text was sent out,” said Smith.
In response, the manager of the team Relly Mercurio sent 23ABC a text saying in part "two players were recently releases for insubordination, habitually late to report time and no showing to practice."
But Carter and Smith say as far as COVID protocols with the team go, there weren’t any.
Explained Carter, “MLB is different. This is low pro ball. We didn’t really have no protocols. There was never a time where we actually sat down and said 'okay this is for you guys safety. You guys will keep on masks.' That was never ever a discussion.”
Benitta Carter, Clarence's mother, says this is hard for her because she’s seen how hard the boys have worked.
“I think what’s more disheartening is reputation is everything, especially when you’re an African-American athlete in baseball. It ia already difficult enough to break through and your credibility and who you are in terms of character is everything.”
As for Clarence and Malcolm, they say they are really upset because this can affect the future of their baseball careers.
“This is people’s dreams and aspirations you're messing with. This is our first time having a chance to play professional baseball and the way that it went this way, is very deflating to us because we gave it our all with these guys and we gave him our all. We played for you,” said Carter.
It’s also important to note that when it comes to independent baseball it is not unusual to be let go without warning. But both Carter and Smith are disappointed they won’t be able to join their team for playoffs starting next Thursday.
If you or your child plays sports you may be wondering what are some steps you can take to stay protected and keep playing at least while health department mandates allow.
Teams can encourage players to wait in their cars until just before the beginning of a practice, warm-up, or a game, instead of forming a group or meeting in a locker room.
And speaking of locker rooms, the CDC says to minimize locker room use by changing into workout clothes or team uniforms before arriving and waiting on showering until players return home.
They also discourage any unnecessary physical contact, such as high fives, handshakes, fist bumps, or hugs.