Photos Courtesy Sonoma Stompers
Sean Conroy, the 23-year-old right-handed pitcher for the minor league baseball's Sonoma Stompers, became the first openly gay pro baseball player last month when he publicly came out shortly before pitching a shutout victory on the team's Gay Pride Night. Conroy, who has had a great season so far, says he was surprised to be the first, and he knows that he'll always be known as a "gay player," but his reasons for doing it were simple:
"It's kind of a respect thing," Conroy told USA Today. "I told my teammates I was gay because as we were becoming friends, I didn't want to feel like I was hiding or have to lie when they start to comment on girls. If a teammate tells me about how he met a girl at a bar, I tell him about how I met this guy at a bar. I try to keep it one-to-one as much as possible."
Conroy hasn't kept his personal life a secret. At 16, he told his family he was gay and says he was open about his sexual orientation with his teammates in high school, summer league, and at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, an NCAA Division III program where he attended college in Troy, N.Y., explaining:
"The coming out process is an everyday thing when you meet new people. It's who I am, but when I'm at the field, I'm at the office. First and foremost, I'm a baseball player. ... I'm pretty comfortable in my own skin, but it's a growing process for me every day, trying to be a better person."
Although Major League Baseball players Glenn Burke and Billy Bean both came out after retiring, MLB historian John Thorn informed Conroy he was making history by coming out while still an active professional player. "I didn't anticipate it entirely. I didn't expect it to be a big deal," he said. "I've never held a conversation with an MLB player, let alone a gay one. It's difficult to know if anyone else will come out. And it's hard to gauge how people would react if I was on their team."