Metro Weekly

MLB Fans Show Their Pride at Nats Night OUT

Annual baseball game celebrating the LGBTQ community highlights queer visibility and a community spirit of togetherness.

Nancy Pelosi at Team DC’s Night Out at the Nationals, June 6, 2023. Photo: Ward Morrison

The smell of hot dogs and beer wafted from Nationals Stadium on Tuesday night as people dressed up in Nationals jerseys, Pride-themed merchandise, and rainbow-colored attire, some of whom were carrying Pride flags, made their way through the gates. 

Such was the scene for the Washington Nationals’ Pride Night OUT, an annual event celebrating the local LGBTQ community. The Pride Night OUT is put on by Team DC, a D.C.-based volunteer organization that works to educate the LGBTQ community on the benefits of sports participation, end discrimination against LGBTQ people participating in sports, and provide scholarships to LGBTQ student-athletes. 

Fans could be seen across the stadium carrying limited-edition Night OUT Screech Mascot bobbleheads and gray T-shirts emblazoned with a rainbow-colored logo, as attendees swarmed concession stands, purchasing food and drinks, before settling down into their seats as the Nats and the Arizona Diamondbacks prepared to take the field.

As the pre-game party began, people from all walks of life began to meet and mingle, including Damion Wills and Lori Perkins. Tuesday night marked their first time attending a Pride Night OUT event. Both said that they feel these types of events are more important now than ever. 

“Given the current climate and legislation that is being drafted against trans people, It’s important that we have visibility,” said Perkins. “It’s important that organizations with big money like the MLB are here to show their support.”

Wills agreed, saying that LGBTQ people have always been a part of the game, even if it wasn’t highlighted in years prior. 

“Queer people engage with sports too,” Wills added. “Whether it’s on the field or off the field, we support, we play the game, we deserve to be included.” 

As more people wearing Pride Nationals hats and carrying bobbleheads were getting settled in, the screens across the stadium began to display the Nats logo and the Progress Pride flag with ‘Night OUT’ rainbow art as the game inched closer.

At 7:05 p.m., the baseball diamond began to empty as players made their way to their respective dugouts while U.S. Representative and Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made her way onto the field to throw the first pitch.

Donning a Nationals jersey with the number 52, the former Speaker of the House walked up to the pitcher’s mound and threw the ceremonial first pitch to Screech, the Nationals’ mascot. 

The California native said that although she doesn’t watch much TV, sports have always been something she watches, and felt appreciative to be asked to throw the first ball at a game celebrating the LGBTQ community. 

“I don’t even watch TV except for sports and so I know better than for a politician to go in front of a sports crowd – who came for that, right?” Pelosi said. “But this tonight, (for) the LGBTQ, that was a whole different purpose, so I was very honored to do that and take whatever came my way.”

Pelosi was asked to throw the first pitch because of her “long-standing commitment to fighting for the rights and dignities of the LGBTQ+ community,” a spokesperson for the Nationals said. 

Shortly after the congresswoman threw out the first pitch, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC sang the national anthem. Then the game began.

This was the 18th time the Nationals have hosted a Pride event, which makes it the longest-running Pride event in Major League Baseball history. 

Brent Minor, the Executive Director of Team DC, was excited to have this historic night out with the Nats. 

“We’re very proud to have this type of visibility in the stadium tonight. We have over 7,000 tickets sold. We are just thrilled!” Minor said. 

When asked about the longevity of the Pride Night OUT event with the Nationals, Minor explained that it all comes down to community and visibility. 

“Well, I’d like to say a big part of it is Team DC because we partner with [the Nationals] and introduce them to the Gay Men’s Chorus and to people in the community. You have to be a community partner,” he explained. “You can’t do anything alone, no matter what it is, and Team DC is a large part of that. Visibility is key.”

Deborah McQueen was marking her 10th time going to the Nationals Pride Night OUT, accompanied by her friend, Brian Davis. The two explained why it is important for Pride nights at sports games, and explained why they keep coming back.  

“This is family! This is just love and fun,” said McQueen, a frequent attendee who had Pride Night OUT T-shirts from years past tucked into their waistband. 

“I think it is important for us to be in spaces that people think are traditionally not queer,” Davis added. “Just to be here and show out that everyone here is human.” 

At every home game, the Nationals have a “presidents’ race” around the outer ring of the field by the team’s president mascots: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson. For this special Pride game, the Presidents didn’t run but instead rode rainbow-colored Capital Bikeshare bikes around the field. 

Lady Camden, the runner-up on season 14 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, held the finish line for the president’s race. 

“When I was first asked to help with the president’s race I was like ‘Joe Biden’s going to be here? Sure!’” Camden said with a laugh. “It was so ridiculous and so much fun. We took bets on who would win and my president [Lincoln] won.”

To celebrate Lincoln’s win, Camden did a split on the field and said that the grass was “the most comfortable landing I’ve ever had.”

Within the first inning, the Nationals hit a grand slam, which happens when all the bases are loaded and the batter hits a home run, earning the team four runs in total. Unfortunately, this luck didn’t last, and the Nationals ended the night with a 10-5 loss to the Diamondbacks. 

Jakob Burnham, who attended the game, was sad that the Nationals lost, but still felt the night was, overall, a success.

“The point of pride night isn’t about whether the Nats win or lose – after all, none of us were on the field,” he said with a small chuckle. “Sure, we all would have loved to have a win to top off the night, but being there, seen, and part of the Nationals community was the goal. And that seemed pretty successful.”

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