Baseball history was made when Californian team the Sonoma Stompers signed their first openly gay player.
New pitcher, Sean Conroy, 23, took the mound for the first time after agreeing to come out publicly in time for the small team’s gay pride night.
It understood Conroy, who joined the team after graduating from college in May, told his team mates about his sexual orientation privately when he joined and has been ‘out’ since was 16.
General manager of the team, Theo Fightmaster said: “The first conversation I had with Sean was, 'I want you to know this organization supports you, we respect who you are. We respect who you as a pitcher and a person and to whatever degree you want your story told, we'll help facilitate that.
“His goal has always been to be the first openly gay baseball player so he was very much in favour of telling the story, of carrying that torch.” Conroy said he had been openly gay with his friends and family in his native New York and it would be strange not to do the same in California:
“People would talk about their girlfriends and who they were going out to see that night.
“Instead of getting the different looks or questions when I didn't join them, I'd rather tell you the truth and let you know who I am and have real conversations instead of the fake ones.” He explained he had no particular plan to “go public” but “didn't care if it was open information.”
“It's who I am. I am definitely surprised that no one else has been openly gay in baseball yet."
The Sonoma Stompers are part of the independent Pacific Association of Baseball Clubs, where players typically earn $650 a month and supply their own cleats, batting gloves and elbow guards
Baseball historian John Thorn said Conroy is the first gay player to come out while still playing. Glenn Burke, a former outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland Athletics, was the first baseball player to come out publicly after he had retired from the sport in 1980 at the age of 27.
In an interview with the New York Times before his death in 1995, Burke said he was driven out by homophobia in the sport. He said: “Prejudice drove me out of baseball sooner than I should have. But I wasn't changing.”
Additional reporting by the Associated PressReuse content