Why Aren’t There More Gay Baseball Players? – Complex
For all the progress that’s been made, perhaps due as much to generational changes as anything else, Dunnington’s experiences just two years ago suggest there’s still an unhealthy stigma working against players coming out, whether just to their teammates or to the wider world. But for some gay athletes, their decision might simply be a matter of wanting to be what they think is a “good” teammate.
For one straight veteran major-league pitcher, someone who’s considered one of the game’s good guys but wished to remain anonymous, gay players don’t speak up because of “the culture of the clubhouse.”
“What you do in your private time is your business,” he says. “We don’t care; that’s your private life. But if you choose to make it public, that becomes you instead of the team. Right now I’m in a great clubhouse, maybe the best I’ve ever seen, and no one is doing anything to bring attention to themselves. Maybe in the off-season, it wouldn’t be any big deal. But during the season, when you get in the clubhouse culture, it’s mostly about ‘What can I do to help this team win?’”
Bean backed up the anonymous major leaguer’s take: “If you’re an active player, it’s going to be news. You start getting attention for things that are happening off the field. You’re not there to get attention for your personal life.”
Ultimately, one might conclude that the connection between Conroy and Denson was fairly tenuous, and that the temporal proximity of their comings-out was largely an accident. Conroy was the right man in the right place at the right time, and Denson seems to have felt what now seems an exceptionally rare compulsion—personal, yes, but also professional—to be honest about his sexuality with the whole world. “It was all very scary, very nerve-racking,” Denson says now. “I felt damned if I did, damned if I didn’t. My emotional state was horrible. I just had no one I could talk to. But once I got in touch with Billy [Bean], everything got a lot better.”
For many years, few people have paid more attention to sports-related LGBT issues than Jim Buzinski, who co-founded Outsports. “No, I’m never surprised any more. It’s a lot harder than people assume for professional athletes to come out.”
Okay, one more question: If there’s no publicly gay major leaguer in 2016, when will there be?
“I’ve been doing this for 16 years,” Buzinski says, “and there’s been a lot of waiting. I don’t know if it’s going to happen anytime soon. And when it does, it might be a time and a player we least expected.”
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