The wide world of sports ain’t the most gay-friendly arena in town. And no one knows it better than Tyler Hoffman, who worked as a minor league baseball umpire from 1996-1999. During those years, Hoffman lived life in the closet. Now that he’s retired and out, though, Hoffman’s spilling the beans on a few of his former comrades.
Hoffman says he knows of at least two closeted gay umpires in professional baseball. One OutSports:
His whole thing is, I’ve been around for a while; the league respects me; other umpires respect me; guys pretty much have it figured out by now, so there is no need for me to actually come out and say ‘I’m gay.’ He doesn’t feel like he actually needs to publicize it.
That’s his point of view, though I think it would be really beneficial to the community and sports in general if he did come out, but that’s my perspective.
Easy for Hoffman to say now that he’s living in Vancouver with his boyfriend and working in finance. During his baseball days, however, Hoffman lived quite the jock life.
In a 2003 interview with OutSports, Hoffman explained why he waited to come out until out of baseball:
For the most part I was out or at least in various degrees of being out, just not in baseball. I wasn’t going to put the development of my career on the line. I worked so hard and was so passionate about it. In my last year, I took a leave of absence and I honestly gave a real long though about me going back and coming out simply to make a statement; at that point, I was ready. But 200 days to spend with guys that may not be receptive are long days.
Though he slipped up a few times, Hoffman admits that he had sex with girls to appear straight:
The bottom line is that in the lower minor leagues, umpires are two to a room. I know now that it’s better. But then, it wasn’t uncommon for one of us or both of us to bring a girl back. Sometimes it was alluded to as “showtime.” For umpires, everyday was Saturday, we were like a traveling fraternity.
In that same interview Hoffman says that while his former co-workers have been supportive since he came out, he’s sure some of the boys would have made things “difficult”.