MLB’s new schedule is bad for the environment and one former player is fighting against it – Orange County Register

Major League Baseball made a giant break from tradition last week with the announcement of its 2023 regular-season schedule. No longer will team travel be bound by the antiquated notions of the American and National League circuits. All 30 teams will play each other, giving fans in each city a chance to see the game’s biggest stars in person.

To one former major leaguer, “breaking from tradition” and “forward-thinking” aren’t necessarily the same.

Chris Dickerson spent parts of seven seasons (2008-14) in the majors with the Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and then-Cleveland Indians. The Los Angeles native and former Sherman Oaks High School standout retired after the 2017 season and plunged full-time into his other passion: cleaning up the planet.

Dickerson co-founded Players For The Planet in 2008. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the stated goal of PFTP is “focused on bringing professional athletes together to help inspire communities to build awareness of the power we have to reverse the environmental crisis.”

When Dickerson is not raising awareness of his organization, or fundraising, you might find him at the beach. He rallied several retired big leaguers (Kenny Lofton, Ryan Braun, and Jerry Hairston Jr., were among those on the guest list) to join PFTP volunteers in a cleanup at Santa Monica Pier in July in conjunction with the All-Star Game. Four years ago, a video of garbage washing ashore in the Dominican Republic went viral. PFTP gathered 75 volunteers to clean up the beaches at Montesinos and Fort San Gil, removing 416 pounds of debris in the process. Dominican natives Nelson Cruz and Amed Rosario joined in the cause.

“When I got into pro sports, seeing the amount of stuff we consume, particularly with plastic, that was something I wanted to address when I was still in Triple-A,” Dickerson said. “The response was tremendous. That’s really how I got started.”

Progress has been incremental. Rallying players to the cause has been a success, Dickerson said. Forward-thinking initiatives at the team level are becoming less uncommon. The Seattle Mariners claimed to stage an entirely carbon-neutral game in 2015 through carbon offsets, renewable energy credits and water restoration certificates. In March, the Boston Red Sox announced they would purchase enough carbon offsets to turn Fenway Park into the majors’ first carbon-neutral facility.

At the league level, there is still much work to be done.

This brings us to the 2023 schedule.

Only a particular stripe of misanthrope asks, “sure, fans in St. Louis can see Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani next year, but at what cost to the environment?” Answering that question raises the bar further, but I’ll bite. We can approximate the number of miles teams will add to their travel schedule under the new format next year.

Take the Angels. This season, they will play 10 games each in Oakland and Arlington, Texas, and nine each in Seattle and Houston. Next season, the Angels will play just five games in Oakland, six in Seattle, and seven each in Arlington and Houston. They are losing 13 intradivisional road games while adding trips to Atlanta, Philadelphia, Queens, and St. Louis.

Houston, the most remote city on the AL West itinerary, is 1,353 miles from Anaheim as the crow flies. St. Louis, the closest out-of-division road game against an NL team, is 1,577 miles from Anaheim. MLB’s schedule-makers can reduce the impact of these added distances by lumping the new Eastern road games together, but the bottom line is clear: across the league teams will be flying more, not less, in 2023.

Climate researcher Seth Wynes found that the NBA, NHL and MLB collectively reduced their carbon footprint by 22% per game during their COVID-shortened 2020 seasons – when smaller traveling parties and reduced travel distances became standard. An unbalanced schedule effectively ignores that lesson. It’s a backward-thinking move.

“Looking at stadium operations, particularly with travel, there has to be greater oversight over changes that can be made to not only promote but really make a significant move toward lessening the impact,” Dickerson said.

Via email, an MLB spokesperson highlighted several team-level initiatives: 22 clubs practice e-waste recycling, and 22 have installed LED field lighting. Nineteen clubs operate food donation programs. A dozen ballparks utilize on-site gardens, 10 utilize solar power, 10 feature electric vehicle charging stations, seven have permanently eliminated plastic straws, and six are LEED certified.

On a more macro scale, MLB says its updated television schedule reduced energy consumption by 328 hours during the offseason. And in Susanville, California, the league announced a post-All-Star contribution to One Tree Planted that will lead to 5,000 trees planted as part of “appropriate reforestation projects.”

But Dickerson is skeptical of any initiative that proposes to “off-set” the net negative behaviors by undertaking smaller net positives.

Dickerson has heard similar refrains in the past.

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