CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — For most fans at Veterans' Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids, Brewers prospect David Denson's at-bat on Tuesday was just a nondescript ground ball that was mishandled by the opposing shortstop. What they did not realize, though, was that this booted grounder, in which Denson reached base, represented another barrier broken by an LGBT athlete.
Denson became the first-ever gay all-star in any major professional male team sport Tuesday evening when he pinch-hit in the sixth inning of the Midwest League All-Star Game. Denson, an outfielder with prodigious power, plays for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in the low-A circuit, an affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. He's batting .263 with five home runs, 27 RBI, and a .765 OPS this season.
Last season, he became the first active player in the history of organized professional baseball to come out of the closet. Until Tuesday's contest in Cedar Rapids — Denson pinch-hit in the designated-hitter position and went 0-2 while reaching on an error — no openly gay athlete had played in an all-star contest in any of the four major male sports leagues (MLB, NBA, NHL, NFL) or their affiliates.
Prior to the game, Denson also became the first openly gay participant in a professional home-run derby. He finished second in the derby with four home runs spread over two rounds and a tiebreaker.
Since coming out, Denson has been accepted by his teammates, something that surprised him a bit, as he told the Cedar Rapids Gazette:
"It turned out to be nothing like I expected. I expected worse. I thought my teammates would be weirded out, be a little disgusted.
"I thought it would basically be me on my own. But all I've gotten from teammates was support. They've had my back through everything. They've said they respect me as a player and a person."
Josh Murphy runs Fun With Baseball. You can follow him on Twitter.