Fast-forward over sixty years, and baseball has fallen behind. Number one WNBA draft pick Brittany Griner recently came out and went on to sign an endorsement deal with Nike, mixed martial arts fighter Fallon Fox recently came out as transgender, and former Boston Celtics center Jason Collins revealed he was gay in a soon-to-be-released Sports Illustrated article. But while a few baseball players have come out after the fact, there has never been an openly gay player on a major league roster.
This isn’t to say there haven’t been developments in the baseball world. The MLB recently added a line on sexual orientation to the players’ anti-discrimination clauses. This clause may be necessary, as last year, former Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar was fined and suspended for three games when he played with a homophobic slur written in Spanish on his eye black. Many high profile players, including Tigers ace pitcher Justin Verlander have made comments saying they would welcome a gay teammate. However, these comments might have been prompted, since Verlander’s teammate Torii Hunter has said last year that playing with a gay teammate would make him “uncomfortable.” The “uncomfortable” idea is thrown around a lot by players as an argument against their peers coming out, but not all players feel that way. Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon McCarthy responded to the idea of discomfort from a gay teammate saying “If you’ve played this game for a number of years, you’ve probably had a few gay teammates, and have you been accosted in the shower yet? It’s probably not going to happen if someone comes out.”
The baseball world appears to be split on the issue, echoing the societal feeling as well. What baseball needs is a gay Jackie Robinson. A player who is so good that he cannot be ignored, and so dynamic that no one would want to ignore him. The potential for revenue is huge, and any owner should jump at the opportunity and media buzz it would bring. Just as Jackie Robinson changed the way that society thought about race, so too can a gay player change the way that we think about sexual orientation. Baseball is the national pastime, and sports are great when they can bring people together. The question is: who will step up to the plate?