(This story was written in 2005).

On April 10, Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Joe Valentine told a New York newspaper that he was raised by two moms. The world yawned. And that is ultimately a good thing.

Valentine, from Long Island, N.Y., was the subject of a lengthy article in Newsday about being raised by two lesbians, Deb Valentine (his biological mom) and Doreen Price. Joe never knew his dad and he has grown up a supportive son who loves the two women who raised him.

“It’s no different than having a mother and father,” Valentine, 25, said. “These are the two women who raised me, and they are wonderful people. It’s just not a big deal to me. Why should it be?”

It shouldn’t be a big deal, and for Valentine it hasn’t been. Since the story appeared, there have been scattered references in other media, but Valentine’s unique upbringing has been met with a shrug and an assumed acceptance.

“I haven’t heard much,” Valentine told the Florida Sun-Sentinel three weeks after the Newsday article appeared. “I thought it was going to be a little bit bigger deal, but I wasn’t doing it because I wanted it to be a big deal. It was something I tried to do for my parents and for the gay community. They’re a huge part of the population.”

“I’ve gotten good feedback [from teammates],” Valentine added. “A lot of guys noticed and read it. They said, `That’s pretty cool. That’s a pretty awesome thing.’ That’s really it.” (On May 6, Valentine was sent down to the minor leagues).

The lack of publicity is pretty remarkable given the still unsettled relationship between sports and homosexuality. Valentine was very aware of this when he told Newsday: “I’m a blue-state guy in a red-state sport. But that won’t stop me from being proud of who I am.”

The Newsday writer, Jeff Pearlman, found some obstacles even trying to ask major leaguers about the subject of homosexuality and sports. “I’ve got nothing against those people,” Washington Nationals relief pitcher T.J. Tucker said. “But I don’t get why anyone would want to be like that.”

Moments after Tucker’s comment, Pearlman wrote, a Nationals front office employee approached him and asked him not to bring the subject of homosexuality into the clubhouse. “Makes the players uncomfortable,” the employee said.

There has never been a baseball player (or pro football, basketball or hockey player for that matter) who has come out as gay while playing. And there is no doubt that when this happens, it will be a big story. Valentine is married, so it’s not as if he’s that different in his day-to-day life than most of his teammates. And we know that at least one of his teammates, Ken Griffey Jr., told Sports Illustrated, it “wouldn’t bother me at all [to have a gay teammate]. If you can play, you can play.”

The Newsday article is a terrific account of how normal Valentine saw his upbringing. His house was the place where his high school teammates hung out, and even a move to play ball in rural Alabama turned out well. Said Keith Griffin, his coach in Alabama: “If you’re a good boy, I don’t care if you’re from Mars. And Joe was as good a boy as I’ve ever had around. He’s hard-working, he’s very competitive and he’s got a big heart. I’ll tell you, very few seemed to care that his parents were gay. They were wonderful people. And Joe–he’s a man’s man.”

Valentine is to be admired for sharing his story. He talked to Newsday to honor his moms, saying, “I just wanted to give them some sort of recognition for this.” And he won’t shy away from trying to make a difference. He told the Sun-Sentinel that he would love to help create acceptance of gays in sports.

“I would definitely embrace it,” he said. “I’m not looking for it, but if somebody would come to me in that situation where they would like me to help out any which way, I would definitely do it. At least people know there are different ways to be raised.”

And as he told Newsday: “I’m a baseball player who was raised by two wonderful, loving mothers. How can anyone criticize that?”

What a nice sentiment this week of Mother’s Day.

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