Baseball is for Everyone

Fans are always proud to show their support of their favorite teams. Baseball clubs across the country, from majors to minors, have begun to host Pride Day (or night) games, as a way to celebrate their fans in the LGBT+ community.

Last year, the Cubs hosted their first pride game. Staff were wearing “LOVE” pins and handing out matching stickers to fans. Many went above and beyond to wear rainbow accessories with their uniforms. Fans were also donning their rainbow gear. Considering that Wrigley Field is just on the other side of the el from Northalsted (and the Boystown neighborhood), I’m surprised the team hasn’t hosted Pride events in the past. The team has participated in the Pride Parade, with a float and staff members – from the front office to gameday staff – walking down Halsted Street on Chicago’s north side.

LGBT in the Baseball World

Billy Bean

Billy Bean played in Major League Baseball as an outfielder for the Detroit Tigers (1987 – 1989), the Los Angeles Dodgers (1989), and San Diego Padres (1993 – 1995); as well as the Kintetsu Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) in 1992).

Bean publicly came out as gay in 1999. In July 2014, he was named MLB’s first Ambassador for Inclusion. In January 2016, he became MLB’s Vice President, Social Responsibility & Inclusion, and is currently Vice President and Special Assistant to the Commissioner.

Bean attended Santa Ana High School, and won a state championship with the school’s baseball team. He enrolled at Loyola Marymount University on an athletic scholarship to play college baseball for the Loyola Marymount Lions. After his junior year, the New York Yankees selected Bean in the 24th round of the 1985 MLB Draft. Though the Yankees offered Bean a $55,000 signing bonus, Bean followed through with his promise to return to Loyola Marymount for his senior year. Bean appeared with the Lions in the 1986 College World Series.

Bean played in Minor League Baseball during the 1990 and 1991 seasons. He played for the Kintetsu Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball in 1992. Bean signed a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres before the 1993 season, and was promoted back to the major leagues. He batted .260 in 88 games for the Padres in 1993, and .215 in 84 games for the Padres in 1994. After playing for the Padres in 1995, Bean opted to retire from baseball after the 1995 season.

Bean was appointed MLB’s first “Ambassador for Inclusion” on July 15, 2014. In this role, Bean counseled David Denson, who became the first minor league player signed to an MLB organization to come out as gay.

David Denson

David Denson is a former first baseman and outfielder. He played in Minor League Baseball for the Milwaukee Brewers organization. In 2015, Denson became the first active player affiliated with a Major League Baseball organization to publicly come out as gay.

Denson attended Bishop Amat High School in La Puente, California, for his freshman year, and then transferred as sophomore to South Hills High School in West Covina, California. He committed to play college baseball for the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. As a high school senior in December 2012, Denson hit a 515-foot home run (HR) in an annual amateur home run derby, topping the 502 feet record of Bryce Harper from 2009. The shot showcased his power potential, and he proceeded to win the contest with 19 home runs, including three that traveled over 500 feet. A YouTube video of his record homer went viral, drawing over one million viewers. Denson played high school baseball in 2013 for the first time since his freshman year, though he had been competing for the ABD Academy, a baseball academy in San Bernardino. He was a Sierra League first-team selection after leading South Hills to a league championship while batting .446 with seven HRs, 11 doubles, two triples and 27 runs batted in.

The Milwaukee Brewers selected him in the 15th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. Wary of being ineligible for the draft for another three years if chose to play for Hawaii, Denson opted instead to play professionally, signing with Milwaukee for $100,000. He played for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers of the Class A Midwest League for most of 2014, where he had a .243 batting average with four home runs and 29 RBIs in 68 games. He began the 2015 season with Wisconsin, and after batting .195 with one home run and eight RBIs in 24 games, he was demoted to the Helena Brewers of the Rookie-level Pioneer League. With Helena, Denson was selected to play in the Northwest–Pioneer League All-Star Game, where he was honored as the MiLB.com Top Star for the Pioneer League after hitting a pinch hit home run while going 2-for-3 along with two RBIs and two runs scored. In late August, the Brewers promoted Denson back to Wisconsin.

After playing primarily as a first baseman through the 2015 season, Denson became an outfielder for the 2016 season.[16] He began the 2016 season with Wisconsin, and was promoted to the Brevard County Manatees of the Class A-Advanced Florida State League. During spring training in 2017, Denson announced his retirement from professional baseball.

Glenn Burke

Glenn Burke was a Major League Baseball player for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics from 1976 to 1979. He was the first MLB player to come out as gay to teammates and team owners during his professional career and the first to publicly acknowledge it.

They can’t ever say now that a gay man can’t play in the majors because I’m a gay man and I made it.

Burke kept active in sports after retiring from baseball. He competed in the 1982 Gay Olympics in track, and in 1986 in basketball. He played in the San Francisco Gay Softball League for many years.

He died from AIDS-related causes in 1995. In August 2013, Burke was among the first class of inductees into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.

Conroy after his debut on June 25, 2015.

Sean Conroy

Sean Conroy is a former professional pitcher. He competed for the Sonoma Stompers of the Pacific Association. HE was the first openly gay player to appear in an American proffesional baseball game, which happened in 2015.

Conroy attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (NCAA D3), where he pitched for the Engineers baseball team. During his time there, Conroy accrued a 21-7 record with a 2.05 ERA. He struck out 223 batters in 259 innings.

Following his senior season at RPI, Conroy signed with the Sonoma Stompers. The team hadn’t seen him pitch before, but signed him as a result of his impressive stats. Upon his arrival, Conroy began the process of coming out to individual teammates, and eventually owner Eric Gullotta. He made his debut after publicly coming out on June 25, 2015 during the team’s “Pride Night” game. Conroy pitched a complete game shutout while striking out 11 batters. He finished the season with a 5-3 record while maintaining a 2.70 ERA. He also earned 10 saves. In 2016, he went 4-2 with a 5.02 ERA. Conroy retired from baseball in 2017.

The 2015 Sonoma Stompers in the dugout on Pride Night

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I really hope that there is more inclusion of the LGBT+ community within the baseball world. It’s great that Billy Bean is the first “Ambassador for Inclusion,” but I think that more work needs to be done to be more inclusive.

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