Major League Baseball made further advancements in its commitment to guide the game of baseball toward inclusion and equality both on the field and in the front offices of MLB teams. On Tuesday, Commissioner Bud Selig announced before the All-Star Game that retired outfielder Billy Bean will serve as the ambassador for inclusion.
The announcement coincided with the league recognizing the late Glenn Burke, who was the first MLB player to come out as gay after retiring back in 1980. Burke died in 1995, and although the recognition should’ve come sooner, the acknowledgement and appointing Bean as a consultant is a major step towards providing an accepting and comfortable atmosphere for gay players who decide to come out publicly with their sexuality.
Bean, who came out as gay after retiring, shared Burke’s reluctance to play while playing the game. Both players struggled with the thought of exposing their sexuality during times when society was less accepting. Bean’s main purpose will be to provide guidance and training in relations to efforts designed to support the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community throughout baseball. He will do this by providing support and education to players and front office personnel.
The opportunity will also allow Bean to do something he felt he should’ve done during his playing career and that is to be visible as a gay athlete. Bean said following the announcement, “We’re not here to change the way people think. We’re here to give them the opportunity to make the best decision. There will always be conflict. There will always be people who do not want to vote one way or the other. That’s the beauty of our country.”
Bean believes the goals that Major League Baseball is hoping to accomplish will come with both exposure and education. There has yet to be an active MLB player to come out as gay while still playing, but they do exist. Selig and Bean hope to provide comfort for those players to feel free, if they so decide, to be public with their sexuality and not be stricken with fear. He continued, “This is not a desire to find out information about player or encourage them to do something they’re not ready to do. It’s to protect them and let them make their own decisions and be the best players they can be.”