HOUSTON — Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker said he had been vaccinated against COVID-19 as the team began spring training Thursday.
But the 71-year-old Baker, who is Black, understands the reticence of some in his community to get the vaccine because of this country’s history with medical studies on Black people without permission.
Baker was only convinced to get the vaccine after seeing a television interview with a Black doctor connected to one of the vaccines who guaranteed this would not be “another Tuskegee Experiment.”
The Tuskegee Experiment was a study of syphilis conducted on Black men in Tuskegee, Alabama, from 1932-72. It provided no treatment for the disease and was done without the informed consent of its participants.
“I was very aware of the experiment and so was my mom and dad,” Baker said. “And so, I was a little leery about getting the vaccine.”
Baker, the second-oldest manager in the majors, also noted that getting the vaccine was important for him because his age makes him more susceptible to severe complications from the coronavirus.
He received the second dose of the vaccine about two weeks ago before he traveled from his home in California to West Palm Beach, Fla. to begin his second season with the Astros.
Though Baker decided getting the vaccine was right for him, he won’t try to change the mind of people who are “staunchly against” getting it. That includes his elderly mother.
“It’s their decision,” he said. “My mom will be 90 on March 1 and she’s not going to get it. She refused to get it.”
He won’t press those who are strongly against getting it to change their minds. But he is comfortable with encouraging people who aren’t sure about it to be vaccinated.
“So, I’m urging people to try to sort of take care of themselves,” he said. “And I know it’s a kind of touchy situation. A lot of people don’t trust the vaccine… you do what you’ve got to do. But my suggestion was for those that are on the fence, get the vaccine.”
Also on Thursday, the team announced that third base coach Gary Pettis, who missed the end of last season after being diagnosed with cancer, would miss spring training and re-join the team for the regular season.
“I’m doing very well, but my doctors felt that due to some potential logistical issues caused by the ongoing pandemic, it made sense for me to continue with my treatments here at home,” Pettis said in a release. “They are being cautious with me, which I understand. I’m doing great and will be back with the ball club, but it will be later than we had thought.”
Pettis, who has been the team’s third base coach since 2015, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma last year and left the team in September to undergo treatment.