Cleat Geeks

Gay Cardinal’s Player Quits After Coach Says they Kill Gays Where He’s From

To my knowledge Major League Baseball has never had an openly gay player on a 25 man roster, and after this story, it may never have one.

Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images

Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images

It is not because baseball has ignored the situation. Different teams around the league have and will have in the upcoming season events at their ballparks specifically for the LGBT community. The Mets will hold an official LGBT-themed Pride Night this season, which they are touting as the first ever hosted by a major sports franchise in New York. MLB takes place in what is know as Spirit Day. It occurs on the 3rd Thursday in the month of October, where players and coaches are encouraged to wear purple in support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth community. Former outfielder and current Oakland front office worker Billy Bean as MLB’s first ambassador for inclusion.

TylerDunningtonWhile those are all solid steps, eliminating hateful speech within locker rooms might remain baseball’s biggest obstacle on this front. That remains a work in progress.

Last season, gay minor-league pitcher Tyler Dunnington stepped away from baseball after dealing with hateful speech from teammates and coaches. In an email to Cyd Zeigler of Outsports, Dunnington detailed why he felt he needed to leave the game he loved.

I was also one of the unfortunate closeted gay athletes who experienced years of homophobia in the sport I loved. I was able to take most of it with a grain of salt but towards the end of my career I could tell it was affecting my relationships with people, my performance, and my overall happiness.

I experienced both coaches and players make remarks on killing gay people during my time in baseball, and each comment felt like a knife to my heart. I was miserable in a sport that used to give me life, and ultimately I decided I needed to hang up my cleats for my own sanity.

After a little over a year of being gone from the game I’ve come to realize I thought I was choosing happiness over being miserable. That is not necessarily the case. My passion still lies in baseball, and removing myself from the game didn’t change that. Most of the greatest memories I have are with this sport. After gaining acceptance from my friends and family I realized I didn’t have to quit baseball to find happiness.

Dunnington was not out to his teammates when he played, and that led to some awkward, and awful, exchanges among teammates. The worst of which came from a coach who said “we kill gay people in Wyoming” in reference to 21-year-old Matthew Shepard, who was brutally murdered in 1998 because he was gay.matthewShepard

Teammates also engaged in anti-LGBT talk. After finding out one teammate had a gay brother, some of the club questioned how that teammate could remain close with his sibling. They also “mentioned ways to kill gay people,” according to Outsports.

Dunnington has come out now, and looking to return to the game after a year away. His playing career may be over, but Dunnington is hoping to join a team’s front office.

While he’ll still likely have to deal with hateful speech, Dunnington indicated that the game is changing. Last June, a number of major-league players told Eno Sarris of FanGraphs that they believed baseball would embrace an openly gay player.

That hasn’t happened yet. And based on Dunnington’s experience, more work needs to be done by the league, particularly among players and in locker rooms.

Completely eliminating that sentiment from the game may be impossible. But no person should have to go through what Dunnington experienced.

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