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Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman explains complicated factors of deciding whether to play

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Washington Nationals veteran Ryan Zimmerman is still undecided on if he’ll play now that MLB will attempt a 60-game season during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zimmerman described the factors going into the decision for a first-person piece at the Associated Press on Friday. For one, he and his wife, Heather, have a 3-week-old baby in addition to their older children. His mother has multiple sclerosis, putting her at high risk of a more severe case of COVID-19 if she were to contract it.

To play would mean quarantining from his family for months to ensure their safety, or put them at risk knowing he could contract it while training and playing.

Zimmerman, 35, wrote for the AP:

There’s a lot of factors that I and others have to consider. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer; it’s everybody’s individual choice.

At the end of the day, does a player feel comfortable going to the field every day and — in my case, more importantly — feel comfortable coming home every day and feel like they’re not putting anyone else in danger?

I am by no means someone who thinks we all need to hide in our houses until a vaccine is found. That’s not feasible for anybody. We just need to do things in a sensible, smart way.

Unlike other professional team sports, MLB will not be conducting its season in a bubble, meaning less monitoring, and will instead be doing regional travel to games. That could bring in more people and more risk, such as hotel staff from different areas that may be hit harder with the virus, and different sets of ballpark staff, even if the group numbers are limited.

It’s a larger risk that owners, and for that matter many fans who may be working from home now, aren’t having to take.

And I’ll tell you this about baseball: The owners aren’t going to be traveling with us. I’m pretty sure they’re going to be hanging out at their houses, watching baseball on TV.

We’re going to be the ones out there, if we decide to play. We’re the ones taking all the risk.

Zimmerman said the success of the season will come down to if everyone is taking care of themselves and limiting any exposures. But that idea that it comes down to the collective to keep one’s family safe is what he said makes it “a little more complicated.”

Players are able to opt out of the season, but with repercussions. Those designated high-risk by a team doctor can opt out and still receive their salary and service time. But those who opt out due to family members being high risk will not necessarily get salary or any service time for the season (though service time would make little difference for a veteran like Zimmerman).

That has put certain players further into a bind. Many of the game’s stars have wives expecting to give birth within the next few months, including Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole and Zack Wheeler. Trout raised similar concerns about a potential season this summer back in April.

Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is working through if he'll play in the 2020 season. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

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