Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis has turned down an invitation to play for the United States in the coming World Baseball Classic because of family concerns.
Markakis, 25, was offered a spot on the U.S. team this week by former Oriole Bill Ripken, who will be announced shortly as a member of manager Davey Johnson's coaching staff. However, Markakis and his wife, Christina, who were married this offseason, are expecting their first child during the tournament, which starts in early March. The U.S. team will open play against Canada on March 7 at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
"My first child is due on March 12, and that's right in the middle of it," Markakis said. "It's definitely a big honor and something I'd like to do, but with my first kid being born, I have other responsibilities to take care of. It was a hard decision, but an easy decision. They said I could have a couple of days' leave, but you don't want to neglect a team like that."
Considered one of the best young outfielders in the game, Markakis batted .306 last season with 20 homers and 87 RBIs. He's a career .299 hitter with 59 home runs and 261 RBIs over three major league seasons. The Orioles still are hoping to lock him up with a contract extension, though talks have stalled and likely won't pick back up until the new year.
"I was surprised I got the phone call," Markakis said. "It's definitely a big honor, especially Team USA. You'd be playing with guys you grew up watching. It's an honor to be invited to play with these caliber of guys. I just go out there and play hard every day. Eventually, it all pays off."
Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts and pitcher Jeremy Guthrie have not received invitations to join the American team, though both have said they would be interested in participating. Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora has said he would like to play for Venezuela; he pulled out of the inaugural 2006 event.