The 36-year-old said he was uneasy about playing the season without fans and then was swayed by his telephone conversation with teammate Freddie Freeman, who has tested positive for COVID-19 and has fever and other symptoms.
“Just hearing him, the way he sounded on the phone, it was tough,” Markakis said Monday. “It was kind of eye-opening. With everything that’s going on, not just with baseball but all over the world, it makes you open your eyes.”
Markakis became the second Braves player to opt out. Over the weekend, pitcher Felix Hernandez said he wouldn’t play this year.
Dodgers pitcher David Price, Washington infielder Ryan Zimmerman and Colorado outfielder Ian Desmond are among the other players who have opted out.
After nine seasons with Baltimore, Markakis was entering his sixth season with Atlanta. He was competing for a spot in a crowded Braves outfield after the offseason signing of Marcel Ozuna.
Manager Brian Snitker plans to play Ozuna and Ronald Acuna Jr. every game, though Ozuna could be the designated hitter. Markakis, Ender Inciarte, Adam Duvall and others were competing for other spots and were joined by rookies Cristian Pache and Drew Waters.
Markakis hit .285 with nine homers and 62 RBIs in 2019, a year after he was an All-Star. He said he doesn’t know how opting out could affect his hopes for playing in 2021.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.