Pirates players sound off on MLB for playing in unhealthy air quality; Andrew McCutchen masks up

The Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres are wrapping up their series on Thursday at PNC Park, despite an unhealthy air quality index in western Pennsylvania.

The game was delayed 45 minutes due to poor air conditions caused by lingering smoke from wildfires in Canada – this resulted in several MLB games being postponed this month and air quality had been a concern during Wednesday night’s game as well.

However, all parties decided to play on Thursday despite the haziness in the air.


Andrew McCutchen

Pittsburgh Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen scores against the San Diego Padres during the sixth inning in Pittsburgh on June 29, 2023. McCutchen wore a face mask due to smoke from wildfires in Canada that has engulfed downtown Pittsburgh and PNC Park for several days. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

“After collaborative discussions between Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association, our team of expert medical providers at Allegheny Health Network, our players and staff, we have made the decision to move forward with our game today,” the Pirates said in a statement. “We will continue to closely monitor the air quality index levels around the ballpark and respond accordingly.”

However, members of the Pirates were not thrilled with the decision, which is ultimately up to MLB.

Andrew McCutchen said he was “concerned” about playing and wore a mask during Thursday’s game.

McCutchen before game

Pittsburgh Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen, right, wears a face mask as he celebrates after a win over the San Diego Padres in Pittsburgh on June 29, 2023. Smoke from wildfires in Canada has been hanging over downtown Pittsburgh and PNC Park for several days. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

“Of course I’m concerned,” McCutchen told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette prior to the game. “You read the alerts. You read everything they’re saying, trying to stay safe from outside. One of the main things is to avoid strenuous activity, and that’s what we’re doing for three-plus hours out there.”

“I don’t really know why we are playing,” catcher Austin Hedges told AP. “It seems like everyone is kind of uneducated on this subject, which is too bad. It’s clear as day when you look at your phone and you check the numbers. Like, it’s told you don’t go outside. They’re not telling you don’t go outside, and they’re not saying that for no reason. We’re not any different than any other humans.”

PNC Park

This view from PNC Park shows Canadian wildfire smoke descending on the Pittsburgh downtown skyline on June 29, 2023. (Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)


The wildfire smoke also threatened the Belmont Stakes this month, but the air quality index returned to healthy levels just in time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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