Elections 2020Statewide NewsGov. Abbott Declines Rangers First Pitch, Criticizes MLB for Election Reform Opposition

The Texas governor's rebuke of Major League Baseball is the latest in a furious political fight over election security legislation.
April 5, 2021
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Governor Greg Abbott was slated to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Texas Rangers’ opening home game on Monday. He declined the invite as protest of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) criticism of election reform legislation in various states, but most notably in Georgia.

Last week, the MLB announced it’d be moving the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to another location.

In a letter, Abbott stated, “I was looking forward to [throwing out the first pitch] — until Major League Baseball adopted what has turned out to be a false narrative about the election law reforms in Georgia, and, based on that false narrative, moved the MLB All-Star Game from Atlanta.”

“It is shameful that America’s pastime is not only being influenced by partisan political politics, but also perpetuating false political narratives.”

A Rangers spokesman told The Texan in an emailed statement, “Governor Abbott’s Office reached out to the Rangers this morning and informed us he would not be attending today’s game.”

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Last year, Globe Life Field, the Rangers’ new stadium in Arlington, hosted the National League playoffs and World Series at the tail end of the league’s pandemic-shortened season.

But after the MLB’s stance, Abbott said, “I will not participate in an event held by MLB, and the State will not seek to host the All-Star Game or any other MLB special events.”

“This decision does not diminish the deep respect I have for the Texas Rangers baseball organization, which is outstanding from top to bottom. I wish the team great success this season.”

The urgency behind such legislation stems from issues during the 2020 election, during which allegations of widespread voter fraud were levied by America’s now-former president, Donald Trump.

Since the Georgia bill was signed by Republican Governor Brian Kemp, Democrats and progressives have likened it — which implements mild but controversial reforms to the state’s elections code and maintains more liberal policies than New York, the state in which MLB’s headquarters sits — to the post-Reconstruction Jim Crow environment.

While many Democrats lobbied for, and eventually lauded, the All-Star Game venue change by the MLB, former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams — who circulated allegations of election impropriety during her 2018 race and has yet to concede — criticized the move for the effects the lost commerce would have on the Atlanta economy.

The Texas legislature is considering two priority bills that, while somewhat different than Georgia’s legislation, have been similarly accused of Jim Crow-like voter suppression. Abbott made election integrity legislation an emergency item for this legislative session.

The 2021 MLB season began on April 1 and teams will open their doors to fans to varying degrees across the different stadiums. The Rangers maintain the most liberal occupancy policies, allowing 100 percent attendance.

For the first pitch ceremony, Abbott was set, as the Rangers’ website states, to be joined by “several frontline heroes.”

The Rangers announced Monday that Audrey Simmons, a teacher with Arlington ISD, will take Abbott’s place in delivering the first pitch.

“We are focused on today’s home opener at Globe Life Field. Frontline heroes will be participating in today’s ceremonial first pitch prior to the game. We had several frontline heroes already participating in the first pitch ceremony as they were planning to accompany Governor Abbott onto the field,” the team’s statement concluded.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.