By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Longtime MLB umpire Joe West is 67 years old and has a history of high blood pressure. As such, he’s considered by MLB to be a high-risk person for contracting COVID-19, thus entitling him to the choice to sit out the year while still getting paid.
But West is choosing to not sit out the unique 2020 MLB season, in part because he doesn’t seem to believe that coronavirus can kill healthy people.
“[MLB deput commissioner Dan Halem] said, ‘According to our doctors, you’re high-risk.’ I said, ‘Look, most of these people that they’re reporting are dying are not healthy to begin with,'” West told The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.
West also added: “I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus. I believe it may have contributed to some of the deaths.”
West lives in Florida, a state where cases are surging and where records continue to be set daily for new cases of COVID-19. Of course, people who contract COVID-19 while suffering from other underlying conditions — such as heart conditions, obesity, kidney disease, asthma, high blood pressure, and more — have been identified as being more vulnerable to the virus. Still, with more than 130,000 deaths in the United States and more than half a million deaths worldwide, the virus has proven deadly for people of varied ages and states of health.
West, who admitted that his pursuit of the all-time record for most games umpired is weighing on his mind, said he’s feeling healthy.
“I’ve lost 25 pounds over the winter,” West told Rosenthal. “I’m playing golf every day in the heat. I’m fine. I’m not going to back down now.”
West, the oldest umpire in MLB, said that Halem was “shocked” to hear that he will not be opting out of the 2020 season.
“If this game hasn’t gotten me by now, no virus is going to get me,” West told Rosenthal. “I’ve weathered a bunch of storms in my life. I’ll weather another one.”