The Major League Baseball season is a third of the way finished and Dale Scott being the first publicly gay umpire in history has been a non-story, and that's good.
"The reaction has been business as usual," Scott told me. "Since spring training I've had two players and one base coach congratulate me for being honest about who I am, but that's been it. The lack of reaction says a lot to me, that we're getting closer and closer to an announcement like this being no news as all, the way it should be."
Scott had been openly gay within the umpiring ranks for more than 15 years -- his bosses at MLB headquarters in New York knew, including Commissioner Bud Selig, but first came out publicly last fall. His interview with Outsports on Dec. 2, where he discussed his marriage to his husband, was picked up by every major sports media outlet and was a big story for a few days. After a flurry of attention, it's been back to normal for Scott, in his 30th year as an umpire.
I am not surprised there has been no reaction. Umpires aren't as well known as players or managers and the vast majority of fans don't pay attention to them unless there is a close call. Yet the fact that Scott came out quietly is a sign that things have changed. While highly praising Scott's coming out, former umpire Dave Pallone (outed as gay in 1988 and then fired) feared the reaction he would receive. "He's going to find out how much hate there really is out there," Pallone told Yahoo. So far, thankfully, Pallone has been proven wrong.
I had lunch with Scott and former NFL player Dave Kopay this weekend and asked the umpire if he felt liberated while coming out to the world. "Although I hadn't thought much about it before Dec. 2, it has been. I don't have to hide who I am and that's a very liberating feeling," he said.
Scott received a lot of email and messages in December, thanking him for going public. One came from a gay but closeted 17-year-old in Southern California who hopes to be a MLB umpire one day and said that Scott being accepted in the sport gave him confidence that his sexual orientation would not be an impediment. Scott met the young man for lunch this weekend while working the Dodgers-Cardinals series in Los Angeles.
"We had a great lunch mostly talking about umpiring," Scott said. "He's got a great head on his shoulders, I was glad to have met him. It is still very humbling to hear from people who say my story has given them more confidence in their lives."