Sean Conroy, billed as the first openly gay player in professional baseball, threw a shutout for the Sonoma Stompers (independent; Pacific Association) on Pride Night at Arnold Field.
Though there have been gay players before in pro baseball — Glenn Burke and Billy Bean came out after their playing days, and surely there have been other closeted players in the long history of the game — Conroy is the first to be openly gay. It’s Gay Pride weekend in the Bay Area, and the Stompers put together a promotion last night to tap into the festivities. As the results of the game show, this wasn’t a gimmick: Conroy has been effective out of the bullpen and stepped up when tabbed as a starter.
“I’m incredibly proud of Sean for taking this monumental step,” said Stompers President and CEO Eric Gullotta. “This is a courageous step he’s taking and we’re humbled that the Stompers are a small part of it.”
Conroy, 23, of Clifton Park (NY) and a 2015 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute graduate, didn’t give up a run while pitching out of the bullpen this season.
“I’ve always played baseball because it was fun, and I loved the sport,” Conroy said. “Being gay doesn’t change anything about the way I play or interact with teammates.
“I hope that in leading by example, more LGBT youth will feel confident to pursue their dreams, whatever those dreams may be.”
Last night, Conroy’s debut as a starter was a distinctive one. The side-armer threw a complete-game shutout, allowing just three hits and striking out 11 in a 7-0 victory over the Vallejo Admirals. From the team’s summary of the game:
On Conroy’s 140th pitch of the night, Kristian Gayday fielded the ball at third and threw over to first to end the game. After a hug from catcher Isaac Wenrich, the celebration line began and Conroy was warmly greeted by teammates and fans alike as he walked off the field. While talking to media after the game, the Conroy celebration continued when he got ambushed with an icy cold cooler of water from his teammates.
When asked about what the night meant to him, Conroy was still trying to put together what had just happened. “I still haven’t been able to process it,” said Conroy, “After the final out, I just wanted to celebrate with my teammates like we always have.”
Image courtesy Sonoma Stompers.