As the San Francisco Giants and the Royals square off in the World Series in Kansas City, consider this sad fact: Since baseball was invented in the 1800s, thousands of pro baseball players have participated in the game. Yet to this day, Major League Baseball lacks a single openly gay player, even in the minor leagues, past or present.
And it’s easy to see why. When the late, great Glenn Burke, briefly came out to teammates in the 1980s, he was punished by bullying and harassed out of the game by his manager. Billy Bean, who came out shortly after retiring, has talked talked eloquently about being forced to chose between his love for the game and his love of his life, a man.
But there is hope. Bean is now MLB’s first Ambassador For Inclusion, and his best-selling book, Going The Other Way, has been reissued in paperback.
In honor of the World Series, and this great game, here are five things MLB should do to level the playing field for gay ballplayers so the game finally lives up to its promise as the American pastime…
1. Step up diversity training during Spring Training with an LGBT anti-bullying emphasis, for every major and minor league team.
2. Create a pro-LGBT code of conduct to be prominently displayed in every clubhouse and locker room. Give teeth to code of conduct violations, and repeatedly underscore player’s responsibility to serve as positive role models.
3. Form partnerships with local LGBT youth groups, in which players, coaches and executives make personal appearances at fundraisers as well as site visits.
4. Encourage hiring (much like the NFL’s Rooney Rule), that proactively recruits well qualified, experienced professionals who are openly gay for job opportunities–and for promotion within baseball organizations–from front office to grounds crew to coaches.
5. Since change is most likely to come from the ranks of high school and college athletes, where players are increasingly open about their sexuality, the game should step up funding for athletic programs where gay players are made to feel comfortable.
The high school outfielders of today are the out major leaguers of tomorrow.
Chris Bull, Queerty’s editorial director, is co-author of Going The Other Way, published by The Experiment