Cleat Geeks

Nationals Batboy is #FeelgoodFriday

SCNationalsSpenser Clark has big dreams, and why shouldn’t he, he is 21 years old and working in the business he loves, looking for advancement in that business. Currently, Clark is the batboy for the Washington Nationals, so his obvious love is baseball. His big dream is to one day be a MLB general manager. Clark, already has one foot in the door and is building relationships within the game he someday hopes to influence through his decision-making and knowledge.This avenue also allows him to experience the day-to-day operations, all while soaking in the atmosphere in the ballpark, in the dugout and especially in the clubhouse. It’s a dream scenario. One that affords Clark invaluable experience.

However, his personal life off the field also put him in a uncomfortable position. As early in his tenure he was withholding a secret, that in his mind threatened to hurt his acceptance and derail his plans: He’s gay.

In general, that might not sound like a big deal. It shouldn’t, anyway. And just the idea that many people will say it’s not a big deal shows we’ve come a long way, and that we’re more accepting as a society. However, even in this world of acceptance, Major League Baseball has never had an active player or coach come out as being publicly gay. Baseball is largly a man’s world, there’s still an uneasy feeling that within the ballpark, the dugout and especially the clubhouse, a gay person could be rejected or shunned.

It’s something that weighed heavily on Clark’s mind, robbing him of the complete enjoyment and fulfillment that should go along with holding his position. One that he loves, one that he hopes is just a stepping stone. But he also realizes that in order to truly live his dream, he needs to find the enjoyment, the fulfillment, and above all, the acceptance that makes his dream worth living. Afterall, a dream that is not worth living is not a dream at all. It is a nightmare.

SCwithWilliamsIn an article that Clark himself wrote for Outsports, he says that’s why he decided to come out to his coworkers. He didn’t know how they were going to react, but it was something he needed to know, good or bad. Then something uplifting happened, the reaction turned out to be overwhelmingly positive.

I realized that you could come out and still live the same life. An even better life.

Coming out to my Nationals coworkers was a completely different experience than any of the others. At work I was tired of trying to fit into conversations about women and having nothing to say. I couldn’t express myself the way I wanted. I didn’t want to hide anymore. I was unsure about how “sports people” would feel about having a gay co-worker. I was worried about getting fired or ostracized, all because of who I am.

None of that happened. I told everyone individually and everyone had similar reactions. They were proud of me and congratulated me for feeling comfortable enough with myself to be myself. They told me that nothing would change – and nothing did.

I was finally able to be myself with some of my closest friends while working in the greatest sport in the world.The rest of the season went by without a problem and I was the most comfortable I have been in my life. I learned that you could be gay and work in professional sports.SCCitiField

It’s a great story, one that gives further hope that MLB can be a welcoming place for gay players, coaches, executives, batboys and whoever else might be involved.

Acceptance won’t be universal, of course. That’s an unrealistic expectation no matter how much progress is made. But the more we hear of this level of acceptance, the more comfortable people like Clark should feel coming out. That’s what’s important, and that’s what makes Clark’s courage worth acknowledging and applauding. He freed his own mind, which is critical in unlocking his potential. And if he pushes just one person, one step closer, to doing the same thing, he’s made an immeasurable impact.

We encourage you all to read his story, through his eyes, at Outsports. There’s an enlightening follow up by the Washington Post that’s also worth your attention.

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