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MLB Players Face Increasingly More Threats from Aggrieved Gamblers

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Major League Baseball (MLB) players are increasingly fearful for their safety due to rising harassment and death threats from disgruntled gamblers. As MLB’s relationship with gambling companies deepens, the consequences are becoming more severe for the players involved.

Arizona Diamondbacks closer Paul Sewald shared his experiences with USA TODAY, revealing the intensity of the threats players receive. “You blow a save, you don’t come through, you get it all. ‘You cost me all of this money. I’m going to kill you and then kill your family.’ It’s scary, and it’s sad,” Sewald said.

The issue escalated after a Supreme Court decision that legalized sports betting in 38 states and the District of Columbia. This decision led to the construction of sports-betting sites near ballparks, significantly impacting player safety. The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) has voiced concerns, leading to the negotiation of Amendment 61 to the collective bargaining agreement. This amendment mandates teams to address aggressive fan behavior and prohibits betting-related abusive speech and behavior directed at players, their families, and other club personnel.

MLB players report a significant increase in threatening behavior. Diamondbacks reliever Logan Allen recounted a particularly alarming incident: “I had a really bad game, and this guy follows me home, and starts cussing at me, telling me I cost him all of this money. It’s scary.”

To combat this, the MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to develop a safety hotline for players to report threats and inappropriate contact from gamblers. Despite these measures, players still face significant harassment. Giants ace Logan Webb highlighted the increase in hostile messages: “Now, you’re getting, ‘You just cost me money.’ They say some messed up stuff.”

Some Demand Payment

The harassment extends beyond verbal abuse. Fans often demand payment for lost bets. Giants veteran reliever Tyler Rogers mentioned, “I had to make my Venmo private because I’d blow a game or something, and people would find me on Venmo, and they’d send me requests. ‘Hey, you cost me $1,500. You better pay me back.’”

The problem’s severity is underscored by the case of Benjamin Tucker Patz, a sports gambler who pleaded guilty in 2021 to sending threatening messages to players. His punishments, however, were minimal, with no jail time, highlighting the need for stricter penalties.

Despite the dangers, MLB continues to promote gambling. Advertisements for gambling sites are ubiquitous during broadcasts, and many ballparks feature onsite sportsbooks. This has created a paradox where the league’s financial gains from gambling come at the expense of player safety.

Players like Tommy Pham of the Chicago White Sox, who has seen the impact of gambling on fan behavior, express concern over the growing hostility. “It’s getting completely out of hand,” Pham said. “As a Blackjack gambler myself, you shouldn’t bet on anything you’re not prepared to lose.”

The league’s promotion of gambling raises questions about the integrity of the game. San Diego’s Tucupita Marcano was banned for life for betting on baseball, but the financial allure of gambling makes it difficult to curb these activities effectively.

As MLB looks to implement new technologies like an automatic strike zone, the focus on gambling’s impact remains critical. The integrity of the game and the safety of its players hang in the balance, with gambling’s influence showing no signs of waning.

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