It is the closest Major League Baseball has been to having an openly gay player compete. Former Big Leaguer Billy Bean wore the uniform of his former team—the Los Angeles Dodgers—one last time as he played in the Dodgers' Old Timers Game on Saturday, May 16, at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles.
"Billy's a former Dodger, so we thought it would be the right time to have him in an old timers game,'' said Dodgers Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Lon Rosen. "Billy's doing some really, really good things in Major League Baseball and we are glad that he's here today.''
Bean, who came out publicly as gay in 1999 (four years after his retirement from Major League Baseball), played for the Tigers, Dodgers and Padres during his Big League career that spanned parts of six seasons. Currently Bean is the Ambassador of Inclusion for Major League Baseball, a position he has held since July 2014.
"I can't get the grin off my face,'' Bean said about the opportunity to participate in the game. "Getting to see all the players and talking to them—what a pleasure to be here.''
The event brought back some Dodger greats including Sandy Koufax, Orel Hershiser, Eric Karros, and legendary manager Tommy Lasorda.
"I think [Bean] is doing a great job [as MLB's Ambassador of Inclusion],'' Karros said. "We are in a different social time now and [American society] is more progressive—there's not a better man to lead that position than Billy Bean.''
Bean being invited to participate in the Dodgers' Old Timers game is just another stride that sports culture has made in the acceptance of LGBT athletes. It should only be a matter of time before we see an openly gay player competing in Major League Baseball. Until then, Bean is working to make the atmosphere as conducive as possible for gay athletes.