Sox general manager Rick Hahn said over 90% of the traveling party was vaccinated after Thursday’s home opener.
Thursday was a pretty good day for the White Sox. Playing in front of home fans for the first time since 2019, Lance Lynn threw a complete-game shutout and Yermin Mercedes continued his journey to becoming a cult hero by blasting a 485-foot home run.
But those aren’t the only reasons the Sox will view that date so fondly.
Prior to Sunday’s game against the Royals, the team announced that “virtually the entire White Sox traveling party” received a COVID-19 vaccine following Thursday’s home opener. The optional vaccines were the one-time Johnson & Johnson version and administered at the ballpark by Rush University Medical Center personnel.
Sox general manager Rick Hahn said over 90% of the traveling party was vaccinated. At this point, the Sox have not reached the 85% threshold because the team has not been able to offer vaccines to all of the players and staff at the Schaumburg alternate site. The 85% mark is important because when a team reaches it, MLB will relax safety protocols for that club, though Hahn anticipates surpassing that level when they get more access to vaccines.
“We are thrilled with where we are at,” Hahn said.
Hahn and manager Tony La Russa sounded especially happy with how much the team bought in to getting vaccinated. While acknowledging the obvious individual benefits, Hahn said it goes beyond that. He said it sends a great message to the community and a great message about being a good teammate.
La Russa, who received a vaccine before the start of spring training, echoed what Hahn said. He didn’t go player to player talking about the vaccines, leaving it to medical professionals to inform the team.
“It’s an independent decision times 26 or 40, but I do know that they got a lot of information,” La Russa said. “It’s a big issue. It’s not something that you decide on lightly. But there’s a lot of community in what the final outcome was, which is good for us.”
Infielder Danny Mendick said he’s one of the Sox players who was vaccinated. He did it for the team, his family and everybody around him.
Mendick admitted he felt “a little crummy” Friday after getting inoculated, but that seemed like a small price to pay for peace of mind. The Sox scheduled the vaccinations around Friday’s off-day, and had another day to recover when Saturday’s game was postponed four hours before the scheduled first pitch.
“I think it’s pretty cool to see that all the guys pretty much went in there and got the vaccine for everybody else. You know what I mean?” Mendick said. “It helps for families, for road trips and different things like that. It shows that everyone has bought in. We got a 162-game season so it’s great to get it started like this.”
Sunday’s news doesn’t mean the Sox are completely free of COVID-19 concerns. The pandemic is still a part of everybody’s lives and requires precautions to be taken, regardless of whether they’re part of a major-league baseball team that had access to numerous vaccines.
Thursday’s inoculations, however, will lower Hahn’s worries about the coronavirus infiltrating the Sox clubhouse.
“Quite frankly, one of the strong benefits of the participation, the vaccination program is that when my phone rings and it’s (athletic trainer) James Kruk on the other end it’s more likely to be an actual baseball injury than it is something COVID-related,” Hahn said. “Having dealt with all of last summer and spring this year with that risk, I would say that there’s actually a little bit of comfort spending our time talking about hamstrings instead of a pandemic.”