Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto — one of several players on the squad barred from crossing the border into Canada to play against the Toronto Blue Jays this week because he's unvaccinated against COVID-19 — was defiant about the restriction placed upon him.
"I'm not gonna let Canada tell me what I do and don't put in my body," Realmuto told a reporter during a locker room interview about the subject.
What are the details?
Along with Realmuto, Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola, third baseman Alec Bohm, and starting pitcher Kyle Gibson are unvaccinated and didn't make the trip to Toronto, WCAU-TV reported. The Phillies lost Tuesday night to the Blue Jays 4-3 in the first of two games up north.
The station said players on this particular restricted list don't get paid, and Realmuto is forfeiting more than $262,000. But the money isn't what's on the catcher's mind.
"For a little bit of money, it's not worth it," he told a reporter.
Realmuto also explained his reasoning for not getting jabbed.
"I'm a healthy 31-year-old professional athlete, and I just didn't feel a need to get [the vaccine]," he said. "I've had COVID a couple of times [with] super-mild symptoms back when it first came out, and when it came time to decide whether I needed the vaccine or not, I talked with doctors that I knew, and I told them my story and just really decided I didn't think I needed it. I wasn't gonna take it just 'cause I was told to, basically."
"It's an extremely unfortunate situation," Realmuto added. "Obviously, my teammates know how I feel about them, and how bad I want to be out there with them, but it's just unfortunate I'm not able to make the trip."
Realmuto's teammate Kyle Schwarber — who leads the National League with 28 home runs so far this season — told WCAU in a separate story that the club has the backs of every unvaccinated player.
“Just because we're headed to Toronto doesn’t mean someone is being a bad teammate because they didn’t get [the vaccine], right?” Schwarber told the station. “It all comes down to a personal decision. It’s unfortunate that Canada is not letting people in that will be in a controlled environment, but we can’t tell a government what to do."
Schwarber — who's headed to the All-Star Game and will participate in the arguably more popular Home Run Derby — added to WCAU that while he's vaccinated, "I don’t push it on people. It’s people’s own decision. If you want to get it, great. If you don’t, fine. I’m not going to treat you any differently, nor should anyone."
He also told the station that the decision Realmuto and other teammates made "kind of goes bigger than a game. It can go to your personal or religious beliefs. We’re playing a game. Guys have made decisions for themselves."
Vaccine status hasn't affected Major League Baseball players only. It's also loomed large in professional basketball — and not just because Canada is barring unvaccinated players, either. Remember the kerfuffle surrounding star Brooklyn Nets player Kyrie Irving not being able to play in his own city?
Apparently the National Hockey League isn't experiencing such issues, as the league reported last fall that only four players were unvaccinated.
Also, Canada isn't the only vaccine-restrictive country. Superstar tennis player Novak Djokovic, coming off his fourth straight Wimbledon singles victory this weekend, is saying he has no plans to get the COVID-19 vaccine so he can enter the United States to play the U.S. Open in late August. For that decision, a tennis journalist ripped Djokovic as an "anti-vax posterboy."