History was made this weekend in affiliated baseball after David Denson, currently with the Helena Brewers (rookie; Pioneer League) announced to the world he was gay after coming out last month to his teammates.
There has been gay professional baseball players before, but both Glenn Burke and Billy Bean didn’t come out of the closet until after their paying days. In coming out to his teammates last month, Denson is the first active player in affiliated ball to announce his orientation. Late in June pitcher Sean Conroy of the Sonoma Stompers announced he was gay, but the Pacific Association is an independent league, not an affiliated league.
Denson made his announcement after consulting with Bean, Major League Baseball’s first Ambassador for Inclusion. It was an emotional decision, as you might imagine:
Before he knew it, Denson was making the emotional announcement he yearned to share, and the group around him expanded to the point that he soon was speaking to most of the team. Much to Denson’s relief, when the conversation ended he was greeted with outward support and understanding instead of condemnation.
“Talking with my teammates, they gave me the confidence I needed, coming out to them,” recalled Denson. “They said, ‘You’re still our teammate. You’re still our brother. We kind of had an idea, but your sexuality has nothing to do with your ability. You’re still a ballplayer at the end of the day. We don’t treat you any different. We’ve got your back.’
“That was a giant relief for me,” Denson said. “I never wanted to feel like I was forcing it on them. It just happened. The outcome was amazing. It was nice to know my teammates see me for who I am, not my sexuality.”
Tom Haudricourt has a great story detailing Denson’s journey. Denson has struggled in his career, but things appear to be coming together for him: he was a Pioneer League All-Star named most valuable player in the Northwest League-Pioneer League All-Star Game, complete with a home run.