This evening, the White Sox announced that, prior to reporting to Spring Training later this month, all minor league players will need to receive their booster vaccine against COVID-19. They are the first team to make this sort of announcement in advance of the beginning of the season.
The team’s official statement on the matter is as follows:
“The Chicago White Sox are requiring all of our employees to be up to date on their Covid-19 vaccination status, and this requirement extends to our minor-league players as well. We believe this is the right thing to do to protect the health and well being of all of our players and staff across the organization.”
A report by Ken Rosenthal and James Fegan of The Athletic uncovers a little information, going as far as to say that minor leaguers must show proof of receiving the booster by the time they report for physicals on February 21st. Failure to comply will reportedly prohibit the players from participating in spring training activities and could even land them on the restricted list until they do so.
Additionally, the organization will apparently not honor any request by players to be released if they are not fully vaccinated. This would prevent those in question from pursuing any other opportunities around the league with those clubs that have less stringent vaccination policies.
The White Sox have not been shy about being the leaders of any wide-scale changes, as you will recall the team was the first to institute the expanded netting surrounding the stands at Guaranteed Rate Field to where the nets are today. They would be the first of all 30 clubs to take on these measures, and the remaining 29 would eventually follow suit.
As Jeff Passan also reports, this is not the first time the White Sox mandated COVID vaccines in order to play, either. Last Spring, the organization made the decision to mandate the vaccine and had, at the time, 100% compliance. With changes to major and minor league rosters since the end of the 2021 season, the White Sox do currently have multiple unvaccinated players in their system – and there is no word on whether or not they will get vaccinated.
At current, Major League Baseball is not requiring minor league players to be vaccinated in 2022 – this is a private business decision made by the Chicago White Sox organization. What will be interesting to see is the fallout from this decision – which teams, if any, will follow suit? We will likely know the answer to that question before minor league Spring Training begins in the coming weeks.
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