“That was a giant relief for me,” David Denson tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a recent interview about the process of coming out as gay. “I never wanted to feel like I was forcing it on them. It just happened. The outcome was amazing. It was nice to know my teammates see me for who I am, not my sexuality.”
Denson, a first baseman for the Helena Brewers, the minor league affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers, has made history by becoming the first MLB-affiliated player to come out while an active player. Sean Conroy, a pitcher for the Sonoma Stompers, previously revealed he was gay, becoming the first active professional baseball player to do so. But the Stompers are part of the independent Pacific Association, which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. Two other former MLB players — Glenn Burke and Billy Bean — have come out as gay, but both after retiring from the sport.
According to the Journal Sentinel, it was Bean, MLB’s official Ambassador for Inclusion, on whom Denson relied for advice in the coming out process, with Bean serving in a mentor-type role for the 20-year-old native of La Puenta, Calif. Bean was named to his current position after the league adopted of a policy intended to prohibit discrimination or harassment against other players based on their sexual orientation.
While Denson first feared that his teammates would react negatively to his coming out, he said that his teammates were largely accepting.
“Talking with my teammates, they gave me the confidence I needed, coming out to them,” says Denson. “They said, ‘You’re still our teammate. You’re still our brother. We kind of had an idea, but your sexuality has nothing to do with your ability. You’re still a ballplayer at the end of the day. We don’t treat you any different. We’ve got your back.'”
Asked by Journal Sentinel sports writer Tom Haudricourt about football player Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player to be drafted in the NFL, and who recently took a break from playing in the Canadian Football League, citing mental health issues, Denson acknowledged that his openness about his sexual orientation could be an obstacle. In fact, he noted that, when he was burdened by having to keep his sexual orientation a secret, he became depressed and even considered quitting the sport. But Denson also said that he is just going to try to perform to the best of his ability.
“I think what I do on the field will matter more than my sexuality,” he tells Haudricourt. “At the end of the day, if I’m playing well, why should I not get the same opportunity as anyone else?”
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