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Baltimore Orioles enlist Eddie Murray in broad COVID vaccine push: ‘We need to protect one another’

The Baltimore Orioles are summoning Hall of Famer Eddie Murray to join current players — and a masked Oriole Bird — in a high-profile “Take One for the Team” campaign encouraging people to get the coronavirus vaccine.

Fans attending Thursday’s home opener will spot prominent signs inside Camden Yards featuring the mascot and reading: “Take One for the Team. Get the Vaccine.” The broadcast of the game against the Boston Red Sox will show similar electronic messaging on the stadium’s warehouse wall.

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Murray, 65, is recording a few radio spots — one of which invokes his affection for the city in which he began his 21-year major league career and then played 12 seasons here. He returned to the Orioles in 1996.

“Baltimore will always hold a special place in my heart, from baseball to the city and most importantly, the people,” reads a script prepared for Murray. “We need to protect one another from the COVID-19 pandemic. Get the vaccine when it’s your turn.”

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A masked Oriole Bird promoting the COVID vaccine.
A masked Oriole Bird promoting the COVID vaccine. (Courtesy Baltimore Orioles)

The club’s campaign is designed not only to boost the efforts of federal, state and local governments, but to address racial disparities among people getting the shot. State data shows Black people and those identifying as Latino have been vaccinated at relatively low rates.

Murray is Black. The club is preparing Spanish-language video spots from players to supplement one recorded recently in Spanish by Mike Elias, the club’s general manager.

First baseman Trey Mancini and pitcher John Means are among the players who have appeared in other videos already posted on social media sites.

“We are hopeful that this comprehensive effort will help to unburden the overtaxed health care system and support small businesses and the recovery of the local economy,” said Jennifer Grondahl, an Orioles senior vice president and spokeswoman.

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She said the club is aiming to have “100% of our organization — employees, players, and coaches — vaccinated.”

Means and a number of other Orioles players and staff have been offered and accepted excess vaccines that would otherwise have gone unused, according to Grondahl. The team said an accounting of how many total players and staff had been vaccinated was unavailable.

The New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners are among other big-league teams that have initiated pro-vaccination messaging. The Orioles were among the first to aggressively promote the wearing of masks a year ago to guard against the virus.

“It’s good to see the Orioles taking a leadership role,” said Matt Saler, vice president of sports marketing for the Baltimore advertising and marketing firm IMRE.

“Athletes are role models and they bridge a social divide at times,” Saler said. “They do have a unique power to relay these messages.”

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said Monday that everyone in Maryland who is 16 or older will be eligible in one week to get the coronavirus vaccine at any of the hundreds of sites offering shots in the state. Adults and older teenagers can get shots starting Tuesday at the state’s five mass vaccination sites.

State data shows about 43% of those age 50 to 64 have gotten at least one shot and about 28% of those age 18 to 49 have gotten one.

The dozen deaths reported Monday pushed the pandemic’s confirmed death toll in Maryland to 8,177.

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