Baseball tries to strike out homophobia

  • Wednesday March 11, 2015
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Baseball tries to strike out homophobia

Spring training is underway for the 30 Major League Baseball clubs and already some teams are attempting to be more inclusive (read: less anti-gay) in the clubhouse. Billy Bean, a gay former ballplayer, is now baseball's inclusion ambassador and it's heartening to see some teams reach out to him.

One of the early participants was the New York Mets, whose general manager, Sandy Alderson, invited Bean to Port St. Lucie, Florida, where the team holds spring training. But the visit was not without issue, as the New York Times recently reported. One player, Daniel Murphy, told reporters that while he welcomed Bean's presence and was ready to play with a gay teammate, he could not condone Bean's homosexuality. He also said he disagrees with the "lifestyle" of people who are gay.

According to the Times, Murphy is known around the Mets organization for his religious devotion. Alderson said that he has no problem with Murphy expressing his feelings.

"I thought he made an effort to reconcile his own religious beliefs with Billy's presence here yesterday and in the clubhouse," Alderson told the Times. "Not everybody's going to be as open to that kind of situation as others. But if we have 23 or 24 guys who are open-minded â€" I'm happy he was honest."

So are we. It's always better to know who has your back and who doesn't.

We would suggest that Murphy try to outgrow his homophobia and for that, he can turn to another professional baseball player, San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Jeremy Affeldt.

Affeldt, too, was not pro-gay. Two years ago he wrote a book, To Stir a Movement: Life, Justice, and Major League Baseball , that detailed just how homophobic he was â€" and how wrong he was to feel that way.

Affeldt wrote that he refused to leave his hotel room when he came to the Bay Area to play the Giants or the Oakland A's as an opposing player. When he joined the Giants several years ago, he said that he was determined to get rid of his negative feelings toward the gay population, a 2013 story on Huffington Post stated.

"There's a chapter in there of me coming to San Francisco and being hesitant because I had homophobia, and now I don't," he said. "I see more San Francisco as a city of love and a city of passion and compassion. It's unbelievable this city. To see that and to have my heart change as a city I didn't ever want to come to, to a city that I'm so thankful I'm going to be part of for a long time, it talks about that. For me, it was an awesome deal."

Affeldt, who also has strong religious beliefs, was able to see past the negativity that Murphy still harbors. He said that he now has gay friends and colleagues and that people are all humans.

And here's a point that Murphy would be smart to understand: he's probably already played ball with gay athletes; they're just not out yet. MLB umpire Dale Scott came out in December â€" another person Murphy likely will encounter over the six-month season.

The Giants, of course, have gone out of their way this year to support the community. It was one of several professional teams to submit an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of same-sex marriage. The Tampa Bay Rays and football champs New England Patriots also filed similar briefs. This development would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but public opinion is now so strongly supportive of marriage equality that even pro sports teams don't run the risk of alienating fans by coming out for equal marriage rights.

Murphy can chew on that during his spring training outings and hopefully come to understand that we live our lives, not a lifestyle. When the season begins next month, maybe he'll realize that Christians can and do support LGBT rights â€" he need look no further than Affeldt.