Minor league pitcher Kieran Lovegrove discussed being a bisexual man in professional baseball in a recent interview with Joon Lee of ESPN.
While their discussion mainly focused on the harsh living conditions and mental health issues that plague the minor leagues, the 27-year-old from Mission Viejo in California also spoke of his sexuality and belief there are plenty of other players in the closet.
Noting that “baseball is a game of statistics,” Lovegrove said he found it doubtful he was the only queer player in professional baseball.
“And if you want to tell me that I’m the only queer person in baseball, I’m just not going to agree with you,” Lovegrove said. “Someone is terrified because it’s a terrifying prospect to come out. I do encourage any one of them to reach out to me.”
Lovegrove, who plays for the Los Angeles Angels Double-A affiliate Rocket City Trash Pandas in Madison, Alabama, said he stayed in the closet out of fear throughout most of his career, hiding his sexuality from his teammates and family. That isolation combined with the hard living conditions, where many minor league players are forced to sleep in their cars or crammed together in small, barely livable apartments, resulted in his attempt to die by suicide. He survived and came through a stronger person, ending his abusive behavior and turning his life around. He also came out to his teammates in 2019. And now that he’s decided to retire, he’s also decided to come out publicly as well.
Lovegrove is the second professional baseball player to come out publicly recently. Bryan Ruby, a member of the independent Salem-Keizer Volcanoes minor league baseball team and a country music performer, said he wasn’t a “hot-shot prospect” but that he came out in part because he wanted to do his part to “create a world where future generations of baseball players don’t have to sacrifice authenticity or who they really are to play the game they love.”
There have been other MLB players who came out, but only after they had retired. Most notably, 2020 Out100 honoree Billy Bean, who retired from the game in 1995 but returned to the game in 2014 when he was selected as the league’s inaugural ambassador for inclusion. He’s now vice president and special assistant to the Baseball Commissioner, working to make the league more welcoming for queer athletes.
Earlier this year the Oakland Athletics renamed its Pride Night celebrations after former out player Glenn Burke. An Oakland-native, Burke briefly played for the A’s before injuries and his open sexuality chased him from the game in 1979. Burke is generally regarded as the first out player in Major League Baseball, at least to his teammates, coaches, and the press, later coming out to the public in a 1982 story that appeared in Inside Sports. Burke had been hailed as the next Willie Mayes when he joined the Los Angeles Dodgers, but was traded to the A’s in an unpopular move with both fans and players.
While Lovegrove is leaving the game, he’s also hopeful that he can work with the league to improve the life of minor leaguers struggling to survive financially, personally, and mentally.
“The love of the game is so deeply ingrained into my being that it is irrational at times, because I will do just about anything to try and improve it,” Lovegrove said. “This is some of the highest-level baseball in the entire world. So to me, that can't be treated as a sideshow anymore.”