US: Gay retired baseball pro Billy Bean appointed MLB’s first Ambassador for Inclusion

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Major League Baseball has increased its drive to combat homophobia in the sport by appointing gay former pro Billy Bean as its first ‘Ambassador for Inclusion’.

The announcement was made at an event held to recognised the late Glenn Burke, the first ever MLB player to come out as gay while still playing professional baseball, for the first time since his death almost 20 years ago.

Bean retired from the sport in 1995, due to the added pressures of playing in the public eye while closeted, and come out publicly as gay in 1999.

Bean’s new role will involve working with both Major and Minor League clubs to encourage equal opportunities in the sport, and developing training initiatives to combat homophobia, sexism and other forms of prejudice.

Commissioner Bud Selig, who appointed Bean on Tuesday, said: “Major League Baseball is delighted that Billy, a member of the baseball family, will advise and represent our sport on a wide range of matter. As a social institution, our game has important social responsibilities.”

He continued: “I believe that Billy will help us proactively cultivate those fundamental principles, and he will serve as a significant resource to our Clubs, current and future players and many others throughout our game.”

“I wish that our game had someone in place to whom Billy and Glenn could have turned when they played; a friend, listener, a source of support. That’s why I am so delighted to make this announcement today,” he added.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Bean said: “MLB continues to lead by example with its social conscience and vision. It is our mission to create an equitable working environment, free of discrimination and prejudice for every player, coach, umpire and member of the MLB family.

“As a young man, I silently walked away from baseball for all the wrong reasons, and today I am truly humbled that the Commissioner’s Office has brought me back to lead the effort on inclusion. I will honor baseball’s great tradition, and be the resource that our current and future players need as they embrace their responsibility as role models to our fans.”

He explained that he didn’t want to “change baseball” or “make players feel uncomfortable”, but to give players “the opportunity to make the best decision”.

He said: “This is not a desire to find out information about players or encourage them to do something they’re not ready to do. It’s to protect them and let them make their own decisions and be the best players they can be.”

Major League Baseball currently has no openly gay players, unlike basketball’s Jason Collins or the NFL’s Michael Sam.