ST. LOUIS — Baseball is going to look a lot different when it returns to Busch Stadium on Friday. Of course, most of that will be because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Cardinals have made it clear they will be unified in another fight, too.
Teams around baseball, and all of sports have been using their platforms to support racial equality during recent movements and protests that have been going on in America. The Cardinals say they'll do the same, in their own way on opening day. Together.
"This group is very sincere about supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. We'll do it in a unified manner that will really follow what the Players' Alliance has suggested strongly. We support that. We believe in it as a group. So we'll participate in that as a group on Friday," Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said Wednesday.
What will that look like? That still remains to be seen.
"I know there's going to be something different going on with the pregame ceremony, just to try to bring some unity to everybody and bring everybody together," Cardinals opening day starter Jack Flaherty said. "There were things that we wanted to do and they finally came up with something."
MLB has given teams around the league the choice to stencil support for Black Lives Matter into the pitchers mound. Flaherty said it'll be there when he takes the hill at Busch Stadium on Friday.
Shildt and Flaherty made one point clear above all others, though. They are unified in their action.
"I would say in general with everything throughout the world, unity is something we all want. And unity is something we're trying to bring together with everybody. And starting in the clubhouse and trying to get everybody on the same page and just understand what's going on, Flaherty said. "Understand what certain guys are coming from and what is trying to be accomplished... Having one person speak and do this and that is great, but if you can't get everybody unified, what can you really accomplish? And it starts with the person next to you and having conversations, and being open and just being willing to have conversations."
Some teams, like the Giants and Reds, have opted to kneel during the National Anthem for some of the exhibition games that have already been played. It's not clear whether the Cardinals are planning to on Friday.
For Flaherty, the Cardinals' message is still unified, no matter what any individual decides to do during the Anthem.
"Everybody has their own right and their own way of doing things. There's no right way or wrong way of doing things. We are all together. We are all unified. If somebody wants to kneel, that's phenomenal for them. If somebody doesn't want to kneel that's phenomenal for them. Everybody has the right to go out and protest in their own way," Flaherty said.
Flaherty did address the reasoning some still give for not supporting kneeling during the Anthem.
"There's still the misconception about kneeling. People still take it politically. People still take is as 'you're disgracing the flag, or you're disgracing the soldiers.' People still want to take it that way even though it's been publicized and said that that is not at all what it's about. It has been said that it has nothing to do with that, but people still want to take it like that. And it's frustrating to still have that conversation," Flaherty said.
Both Flaherty and Shildt see the team coming together in their message as a way to help push the movement forward, and keep it front of mind.
"Friday will be an opportunity to create awareness for something we'll do together. And beyond that what's the solution look like so we can have a society across the has a quality board and people don't have to think twice about how they operate or if they're going to have any prejudice against them," Shildt said.
"Dex has repeatedly said in the clubhouse, 'It's going to be a generational thing. It's not like we're going to change things overnight. But it's what can we do to try and start that process and get things moving in the right direction?' And I think this is s step towards that," Flaherty said.
The Cardinals will face the Pittsburgh Pirates on Opening Day Friday at Busch Stadium.