Flying all over North America every week is part of being a major league player. The Milwaukee Brewers, for example, made it to San Diego and Miami as part of their 162-game regular season this year. Now multiply that by the 30 teams in Major League Baseball.
Brewery Brent Suter can’t help but think about how much fuel was burned and how many emissions were emitted during all these flights. He worries for the planet as he helped the Brewers reach the franchise record-breaking postseason for the fourth consecutive season.
“The fact that you can go wherever you want is not sustainable,” he said before a recent match. “We can’t continue to add carbon to the atmosphere and stabilize it and set limits to rein in carbon in any industry and still continue to look for fossil fuels in every corner of the world.”
While human activity continues change the climate — hotter summers, stronger hurricanes, more flooding, wildlife at greater risk — no part of society will be affected. This includes baseball, where most MLB games are at the mercy of the elements in outdoor stadiums. Sport has already seen some of these effects.
“We were in Oakland last year to prepare for the series, and we canceled both days of our batting practice and almost the games were canceled due to smoke from forest fires. And the air quality was awful,” says Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed, about the fires in California at the time. “I know there is a problem there this year as well. I hope people wake up and realize that our planet needs to be taken very good care of.”
Around MLB clubhouses, where issues like the environment aren’t often brought up, a few players have been alarmed by the state of the world and are trying to do something about it, even in modest ways. Players believe that the greatest power for change is in larger institutions—governments, corporations, leagues, teams—many of whom lead efforts in and out of clubhouses.
While with the Detroit Tigers, Daniel Norris, now a Brewers employee, told his teammates and key staff members that a company has provided the reusable mugs that it has given him. When Norris saw his teammates throwing used water bottles in the trash, he used humor to remind them of the impact of their choices.
“This is a bad shot, but it would be worse if you recycle it, you know?” “If I do enough, maybe they’ll eventually change or if they see me go and recycle their bottles,” 28-year-old Norris said in a statement earlier this year.
Suter, 32, who studies environmental science and public policy at Harvard, said he constantly tells his teammates to refill their plastic bottles from water coolers instead of buying a new one. “I don’t want to be too annoying about it,” he said, “but it needs to be said.”
The amount of waste generated in clubhouses prompted Chris Dickerson to start a nonprofit called Players for the Planet, which Norris, Suter and others joined. When Dickerson was with the Cincinnati Reds’ AAA Class member Louisville Bats, he had a locker next to a trash can in the clubhouse before being called up to the major leagues in 2008. He frowned at what he saw.
Dickerson, 39, counted 500 bottles thrown out after punch practice on a hot, humid day. He estimated that 2,000 bottles were discarded in an average week. Between 120 minor league and 30 major league teams, it began to amass an estimated 300,000 bottle players used every day. “And we play 162 games,” he said.
Over the years, Dickerson has helped build a network of athletes that now number about 100 and feel similarly about green initiatives. The nonprofit organized electronic waste collections, assisted some MLB teams in their own environmental efforts, pioneered tree planting, created an online course in Spanish about plastic pollution for players at academies in the Dominican Republic, and organized beach cleanups, among other projects. and with minor league players.
“In our case, Dominicans, we’re an island and waste affects us more than anyone else,” said Nelson Cruz, a cautious 41-year-old Tampa Bay Rays who attended a cleanup with Amed Rosario in 2019. year. “All the garbage we throw out comes back to us.”
Ahmed said with Dickerson’s help he forced the Diamondbacks to install more recycling bins in the dining room and clubhouse. Ahmed has been troubled by what he sees as the rapid increase in reliance on single-use plastics in clubhouses during the coronavirus pandemic for fear of transmitting the virus.
“I try to encourage my teammates to do the same things I did using canteens,” said Ahmed, 31, who began focusing on the health of the planet a few years ago while seeking healthier and more sustainable food. “And then you tell the guys to recycle and think about it. No one reacts well to being hit on the head and being told to do something.”
Suter said the planet of gamers has become more open to discussion. In 2016, he was mocked by his teammates for bringing food in reusable containers to the clubhouse and talking about the environment.
During his 15 years in professional baseball, including episodes of seven seasons in the major leagues, Dickerson said he felt there was a group of “good old men” at clubs who thought of climate change as a “myth made up by the Democrats” or a “myth made up by the Democrats”. some hippie bullshit.”
“But now,” he said, “as it’s affecting your off-season fishing and you see how it’s changing, you see the fires affecting the wildlife, the deer you hunt, the fish you catch. Then that’s a problem and then you’ll be like, ‘Oh, man, there might be something to it.’
Norris in particular has seen firsthand how the planet has changed. While pursuing his passions for surfing and nature photography, he said he learned more about the health of the oceans and saw more plastic in the water, which was “disgusting”. He said he’s seen surf breaks around the world ruined by shifting sandbars or damaged reefs.
“I’ve been out most of my life,” he said. “I don’t really hang out or watch Netflix. Surfing and hiking – all this is a big part of my life. I appreciate that and I want to take care of it for as long as I can. Generations before us also want to enjoy it. But if it’s changing that fast, they’re not going to have that passion.”
Norris said he learned a valuable lesson while surfing in Nicaragua: People used the material for as long as possible – the opposite of the discarded culture of other countries. He said it can be difficult to be green in the big leagues, where the average salary is high. over $4 million per year, some players show off their flamboyant outfits and gas burner cars and clothing companies constantly send equipment to players.
(Several players said they donated their old or unused equipment to minor league players who earned a penny of their major league salaries. Cruz said he also donated spare equipment in his home country.)
Norris, who does not have a home and spends his free time outside the house a pickup truck He said he buys clothes from companies that use solar panels and recycled materials, such as board shorts made from old fishing nets. The boots he wears off the field are repainted so he can use them for 10 to 15 years. He still wears two suits that his former Tigers teammate Justin Verlander bought as a rookie to wear on team flights.
“The only other suit I bought was from a secondhand store,” he said.
Suter uses an electric car to reduce its carbon footprint. He said his home in Cincinnati had solar panels and helped start a startup called Side Line Carbonraising money to buy carbon credits to offset professional fitness travel.
As for the future, Suter and Dickerson said they are concerned about how climate change will further impact their planet and their sport as hot days make it harder for players to train and for spectators to watch.
But in the season shortened due to last year’s pandemic, Suter said he saw what could be a glimpse into the future. Teams traveled only regionally during the regular season, regardless of traditional divisions, and post-season were held at neutral sites in Southern California and Texas, reducing emissions. An added bonus: Shorter travel meant players had more time to heal.
“There will be growing pains,” Suter said. “It just matters how severe we want them to be, because if we wait and wait, it will just be on the verge of apocalypse.”
“Just in terms of travel, I appreciate it and so does our planet,” Ahmed said of reducing travel. “So that’s a good idea. I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all solution or a one-step solution to fixing things. But small things like this that can change along the way can hopefully lead to big cumulative changes.”