Veteran umpire Joe West doesn't plan on opting out of the 2020 MLB campaign despite being designated by the league as high-risk for COVID-19, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
West, 67, told deputy commissioner Dan Halem on Sunday that he intends to return for a 42nd season.
"He said, 'According to our doctors, you're high-risk,'" West said. "I said, 'Look, most of these people that they're reporting are dying are not healthy to begin with. I've lost 25 pounds over the winter. I'm playing golf every day in the heat. I'm fine. I'm not going to back down now.'
"I don't believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus. I believe it may have contributed to some of the deaths. I said, 'I'm not going to opt out. I'm going to work. And I'm going to work until you take me off the field or I get hurt, whatever. I'm working.'"
West, who's dealt with elevated blood pressure in the past, sits just 65 games short of Bill Klem's record of 5,375 regular-season contests as a major-league umpire. He won't be able to reach the record in 2020 but he can position himself to break it in 2021.
"You know I'm chasing the rainbow," West said. "I'm chasing the end of this record. I'd like to be young enough to enjoy it."
He added: "If this game hasn't gotten me by now, no virus is going to get me. I've weathered a bunch of storms in my life. I'll weather another one."
MLB is set to announce a renegotiated agreement with the umpires - which will provide higher pay, among other things - once the league finds out which ones are opting out, sources told Rosenthal.