If Minor League first baseman David Denson ever makes it to the big leagues with the Milwaukee Brewers, the organization, its manager and its star player all will have his back.
Denson, 20, came out publicly as gay in a Sunday article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. He is the first professional baseball player affiliated with a Major League Baseball team to come out as gay (Sean Conroy, who plays for an independent minor league team, came out in June). Denson plays for a Helena Brewers (a rookie league team), and his big-league club in Milwaukee has been totally supportive.
Ryan Braun, the Brewers' biggest star, said: "Overall, we realize it's a courageous decision by him, to come out and embrace his true self. I've never met him, but I hope baseball as a whole is at a point where we judge people by their ability and not their race, religion, ethnicity or sexuality. I can't speak for everybody on our team, but he would be accepted and supported by me. And I would hope all of my teammates feel the same way."
Brewers Manager Craig Counsell said Denson would be accepted in his clubhouse. "We actually have the same agent, from when I was a player," said Counsell. "I always looked out for him a little bit when I went to see him and had conversations with him. I'm happy for him, more than anything. He says it wasn't a courageous thing to do. It was a courageous thing to do, and we applaud that. ... It's not easy trying to become a major league baseball player, and I'm sure it hasn't been easy dealing with everything he has had to deal with up to this point. Hopefully, this kind of gets something out of the way that allows all of his talents to shine through."
Organizationally, the Brewers also showed their support, as did Major League Baseball. Brewers General manager Doug Melvin said in the statement: "Our goal for David is to help develop him into a major league player, just as it is for any player in our system, and we will continue to support him in every way as he chases that dream."
Denson is still a ways away from ever becoming a Major Leaguer and the New York Times laid out the long road ahead:
The path from the lowest levels of the minor leagues to a major league roster is treacherous and fiercely competitive. Few players make it. MLB Pipeline ranked Denson as the Brewers' 21st-best prospect entering this season. But Denson was demoted this year, his third in the organization, and MLB Pipeline now lists him as the organization's 27th-best prospect.
Denson struggled in Class A ball, posting a .569 on-base plus slugging percentage while batting .195 with one home run in 24 games. After his demotion to the Helena Brewers of the Pioneer League, he has had an O.P.S. of .727, batting .244 with four home runs in 44 games.
Denson has had some success was named a Pioneer League All-Star and the MVP of the Northwest-Pioneer League All-Star Game for Helena this year. In the first three games since his story went public, Denson has gone 2 for 9, with 3 RBI.
The important thing here is that Denson will be able to succeed or not based on merit, and he does not have to hide anymore. Having a supportive organization is key for any gay athlete, since that person will likely be the only one open on his team. When the manager and the team's star show their support, that sends a strong message to everyone else. The Brewers are to be applauded for quickly embracing Denson's story. The rest is now up to him on the field.