An hour before the 2020 season could finally begin, a group of Phillies groundskeepers huddled Friday near the pitcher’s mound at Citizens Bank Park and tried to affix a stencil just right.

With black paint, they sprayed “BLM” on the back of the mound to represent Black Lives Matter after Major League Baseball gave teams the option to do so for their season opener.

Phillies players and staff members wore Black Lives Matter shirts before Friday’s game and wore patches on the left sleeves during the game.

Before the national anthem, the Phillies and Marlins lined up along the first and third base lines with each player, coach, and staff member holding onto a large black “symbolic ribbon” to celebrate diversity and inclusion. No players on the Miami Marlins or Phillies knelt during the anthem.

The ceremony, which was held before every major-league opener on Thursday and Friday, was inspired by Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen. The idea, McCutchen said, came from a conversation he had with his wife, Maria.

McCutchen had planned to kneel this season during the anthem, believing that was the only way he could express his emotions after the death of George Floyd. But his wife asked if he could do more.

“I didn’t quite understand what the ‘more’ was at the time,” McCutchen said. “But opening up the door to being able to have the conversation to what the ‘more’ could be and really sitting down, talking, and meditating on what that ‘more’ was. Fast-forward and it became what it is now.”

McCutchen first wanted players to lock arms in the ceremony, but safety protocols prohibit players from touching one another, so they instead held the ribbon while a recording played of Morgan Freeman reading a script written by McCutchen.

“It’s everyone linking together, unified, and standing for each other,” McCutchen said. “Having a moment for us as baseball players, which is separate from Major League Baseball, which is separate from the anthem, this is for us having a moment that links our unity together.”

“We have to talk about this because I want to understand where you’re coming from and I want you to understand where I’m coming from,” McCutchen said. “‘I’m a little confused about it. Let’s talk about it.‘

The Phillies held their season opener against the Miami Marlins on July 24, 2020. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic all Major League Baseball games will be played without fans. Andrew McCutchen did not kneel during the National Anthem but did in the outfield before the game.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
The Phillies held their season opener against the Miami Marlins on July 24, 2020. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic all Major League Baseball games will be played without fans. Andrew McCutchen did not kneel during the National Anthem but did in the outfield before the game.

“That’s ultimately the point. The point is this is what we need to have. We need to have open dialogue. We need to talk. We can’t just jump to conclusions without having a conversation with each other. We can choose to think the way we’re going to think, but if we really want to have an understanding, we have to have that conversation. We have to talk to each other.

“We have had multiple conversations about different subjects and there have been better understandings with each other, not just with me but with other people as well and players and teammates. It’s really good. They’re not all comfortable. Some of the conversations are uncomfortable, but you need to have those.”

Extra bases

Zach Eflin will start Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium after feeling good following Thursday’s simulated game. ... Phillies PA announcer Dan Baker missed the opener due to an oral procedure. Baker is expected to return for the first homestand in August. Baker had announced 48 straight home openers. He was replaced Friday by Scott Palmer. ... Zack Wheeler will start Saturday against Marlins lefthander Caleb Smith.