Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis’ 2020 season opt-out didn’t last nearly as long as anyone expected.
The 15-year veteran and one-time All-Star announced on Thursday that he will return to the Braves this season after saying he would not play due to COVID-19 concerns.
“Sitting at home, watching these guys compete … and all the risks they’re going through going out there, in the pit of my stomach I felt I wanted to be out there,” Markakis said. “I bailed out on them and when I see them I will apologize to them and hopefully be a part of them.”
Markakis was one of several prominent MLB names — ranging from Ian Desmond to Buster Posey — to opt-out of the 2020 season following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
His initial decision in early-July came after his teammate, Freddie Freeman, battled the virus.
“Just hearing him, the way he sounded on the phone, it was tough,” Markakis said at the time. “It was kind of eye-opening. With everything that’s going on, not just with baseball but all over the world, it makes you open your eyes.”
But what was described as guilt and a phone call from Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos, coaxed Markakis to make his way back to the club.
“[Baseball] has been in my blood since I was 4 years old and it sucks,” Markakis said. “It sucks watching baseball when you know you can go out and compete on a daily basis.”
His decision comes just days after more than half of the Miami Marlins’ active roster tested positive for the coronavirus, which led to a pause on their season until at least Monday while the Phillies — who played Miami on opening weekend — won’t restart until Saturday.
One of the better professional, pure hitters in the game, the 36-year-old has slashed .284/.359/.403 in five years with the Mets’ divisional rival.
After taking two-of-three games from their opening series against the Mets, the Braves have run into trouble with the Tampa Bay Rays — a dark-horse candidate to make a deep playoff run this season.