Baseball is an old-fashioned sport, with an often stubbornly old-fashioned mentality. Following the boundary-breaking ways of Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente and Minnie Minoso, however, it has seemed for the last several decades like the National Pastime had essentially one final equality hurdle to overcome: When would we finally see an openly-gay athlete?
David Denson, a minor league first baseman/left fielder in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, made his own revelation out of left field on Saturday night when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a story identifying Denson as the first openly-gay player in baseball history. But after the baseball community and the world at large held their collective breath to see how Denson’s story would play out, the athlete is proud to report that he has received a huge outpouring of support.
“Naturally, I was thinking worst-case scenario,” the 20-year-old slugger tells MLB.com. “I was expecting a lot of backlash, I guess. But then I told myself to just focus on the positivity and go from there. But really, I didn’t have expectations. Me doing this wasn’t for expectations, or for any kind of attention. It was because this is who I am. I finally got to the point where I felt free.”
Many big names within the Brewers organization have come forward in support of Denson, but he called it a “whoa” moment when he read that six-time All-Star Ryan Braun called him “courageous” and said: “I’ve never met him, but I hope baseball as a whole is at a point where we judge people by their ability and not their race, religion, ethnicity or sexuality. I can’t speak for everybody on our team, but he would be accepted and supported by me. And I would hope all of my teammates feel the same way.”
“That, to me, was amazing,” says Denson. “Truly, truly amazing to know that the guys on the big league side have my back and are considerate and understanding. I take everybody’s feelings into play, and I would never want to make anybody feel uncomfortable or anything like that. To know they respect my decision and understand, that’s really, really great. Truly amazing.”
Since the news broke, everyone from Ellen Degeneres to Katie Couric have requested interviews, but Denson is determined to keep his head down and stay focused on the next step: Becoming the Major Leagues’ first openly gay player.
“I’m focused on my game,” he says. “Wherever it goes from here, it goes. I’m excited to see what the future holds. My focus is 1,000 percent now on the game.”
Denson, who is currently hitting .245 with 4 homers and 21 RBI in 46 games, knows that he has a long way to go. But tweets from his teammates over the last few days have shown him that his announcement on Saturday will be an easier obstacle to overcome than a hard-tumbling forkball.
“I was afraid that my teammates would look at me different,” admits Denson. “But once my teammates knew and they told me they had my back, it felt like a thousand tons were lifted from my shoulders.”