KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One day after the Kansas City Royals traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays, second baseman Whit Merrifield shared a special message for fans.
The Royals drafted Merrifield in the 9th round of the 2010 draft, and he made his big league debut in 2016.
The two-time All-Star played in a franchise-record 553 straight games before missing a game in July with a toe injury. He amassed 1,001 hits, including 74 home runs, in his MLB career.
After seven seasons with the Royals, the 33-year-old penned a letter to Kansas City:
For the past 7 years, you have been my home. For the past 13 years, the Royals organization has been the only baseball family I’ve known. Like all great relationships, we shared the highs and lows together. The good times and the not so good times. That’s why I believe my love for you is, and will always be, so strong.
This is where I turned my dream into reality, where I got my first hit, hit my first homerun, and found many brothers for life. I’ll never be able to fully put into words what you’ve meant to me, nor will I ever be able to repay what you’ve given me. I became a man in Kansas City.
Just know that from the time I pulled into the parking lot each day, until the very last out, I always gave everything I had. I cherished every moment. Every single one.
Merrifield made headlines last month after missing the Royals’ away series vs. the Blue Jays because he and nine other Kansas City players were not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Immediately after the news broke, he said he may have gotten vaccinated if he were on a team headed to the postseason. Merrifield quickly received a wave of backlash across sports media and online.
A few days later, the longtime Royals player took to 610 Sports Radio to clarify his comments.
“What really kept me up last night was people thinking I don’t love Kansas City and I haven’t really loved every minute that I’ve been in Kansas City. That I don’t love my teammates and I don’t want to fight for my teammates,” Merrifield told Cody & Gold.
Merrifield said his decision to not get vaccinated for COVID-19 was a personal one, and his comments were based on the “business of baseball” as he had been involved in a few trade rumors.
“The vaccine thing has been a very fluid decision making for me. I’m not like a hardline no vaccine. I’ve always been one, and our trainers will attest to that, when they give me Advil and Tylenol for a bruise, I’ve always been one to resist it,” Merrifield said.
But he added that it was never a slight at his teammates and the current state of the team, who sit in fourth place in their division.
“What I was trying to say is if I had the opportunity to get to the postseason, that would be something that might sway my views on potentially getting that vaccine,” Merrifield said.
Now he might actually have to make that decision.
Toronto is right in the middle of the American League playoff race and are on track to make the postseason.
And as the only MLB team located in Canada, the Blue Jays have tough constraints. Foreign nationals who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 are not allowed to enter Canada, save for limited exceptions that require a 14-day quarantine.
Unvaccinated players are placed on the restricted list, where they are not paid and do not accrue major league service time.
But Blue Jays manager John Schneider said Wednesday the team won’t force Merrifield to be vaccinated. Merrifield’s new team is currently in the middle of a long road trip and won’t return to Toronto until Aug. 12.
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