Sean Conroy, the first active openly gay professional baseball player in history, has an easy answer for why he came out to his teammates for the Sonoma Stompers of the independent Pacific Association of Baseball Clubs:
"It's kind of a respect thing," Conroy, 23, told USA Today. "I told my teammates I was gay because as we were becoming friends, I didn't want to feel like I was hiding or have to lie when they start to comment on girls. If a teammate tells me about how he met a girl at a bar, I tell him about how I met this guy at a bar. I try to keep it one-to-one as much as possible."
It's a great answer and I wish more gay athletes would look at it this way instead of hiding. Not that Conroy thinks it's an easy decision for others. "I've never held a conversation with an MLB player, let alone a gay one," Conroy said. "It's difficult to know if anyone else will come out. And it's hard to gauge how people would react if I was on their team."
Conroy was surprised he was the first active openly gay pro ballplayer -- Glenn Burke and Billy Bean are two Major Leaguers who came out after retiring -- and he is appreciative of how he has been treated by the Stompers. "I could see other teams having less understanding environments and coaches. It's definitely important to feel welcomed on the team, to give yourself the best chance to perform at the highest peak."
Conroy has had a great season so far. He is 2-1 in 12 games, mostly as a reliever. He has an impressive 0.62 ERA in 28 innings pitched with 27 strikeouts and seven saves. He pitched a shutout in his first start, which happened on the team's Pride Night. Regardless of whether or not he ever advances beyond the minor leagues, Conroy has made history and a difference.