Bryan Ruby has teamed up with other out people in baseball to launch a new non-profit, Proud To Be In Baseball, to support LGBTQ inclusion in the sport.
I remember the game like it was yesterday.
It was a cold April afternoon in Upstate New York. I was hitting fifth in the batting order, protecting our cleanup guy in midweek collegiate non-conference action.
I took my warm-up swings in the on-deck circle and yelled over to a teammate asking if the opposing pitcher was any good. I’ll never forget his response:
‘Nah, he’s a fucking faggot. Crush it, Ruby!’
To this day, I can’t remember what happened next. All I know is I didn’t have time to react. I was needed at the plate.
In retrospect, I realize I must have blacked out from pure rage. Luckily, the game was being videotaped. The tape shows an outside fastball, a loud ping, and a celebration as I crossed the plate for my first collegiate home run. (Link)
My parents were in town for the game, but I didn’t feel like celebrating the big hit. All I could think was: Why is this language a daily occurrence on the ballfield? After all, I went to queer-friendly Vassar College, and had already quietly come out as gay to a few of my teammates.
Fast forward nearly four years.
As I write this, I am sitting at the desk of a hotel room 3,000 miles from home. I am in a faraway city wrapping up my third season of post-collegiate baseball.
Against all odds, I survived the annual culling-of-the-herd as players age out of college and get real jobs. Now I occupy the unglamorous but enviable position of a journeyman utility infielder-for-hire.
I am no star. I don’t get paid millions or rake in endorsement deals. But I still get to call the ballpark my ‘office’ and feel lucky to lace ‘em up every day.
I’m proud that I’ve made it further than 99% of ballplayers ever get. I’ve hit successfully on three different continents, and have manned my position on the ballfields of Germany, Guatemala, Austria, Chile, Peru, Switzerland and the United States.
Most people don’t even know they have baseball in half of those places.
Being on the road so much has given me a perspective on life and the journeyman lifestyle at large. I was in South America playing exhibition games during Spring Training of 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
In a split second, we all lost our jobs. For the first time, I was faced with the genuine possibility that I may never play professional baseball again.
Sleeping on a futon in an oversized closet (both literally and metaphorically) back home in Nashville, I realized that I was deeply unhappy. I had sacrificed so much to live my dream as a baseball player, but in the process had lost touch of who I was inside.
Nobody should have to sacrifice who they are in order to do what they love.
This past spring I got a spot on an Independent team out of Oregon, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. I decided that once and for all, I wasn’t going to tolerate the mental burden of living a double life at home and at work.
In June, I laced up my cleats with rainbow shoelaces, a small gesture of personal Pride. My teammates caught wind of the symbol and encouraged me to tell my story publicly, sensing that it could be an opportunity for baseball to show how far it’s come in the past few years. I came out publicly in an interview with USA Today shortly thereafter.
It literally couldn’t have gone better.
My teammates, coaches, the fans, the media, our organization, and league management all had my back. From my teammates using Pride Tape to the fans proudly waving rainbow flags when I got up to hit in the playoffs, to the freakin’ LA Dodgers bringing me in to sing the National Anthem before Max Scherzer’s 3,000th career strikeout game, I felt support from every level of the game.
The support has been crazy.
I have never felt this much love in my life.
I am humbled and honored that my story has been shared so publicly these last few weeks. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have even been able to fathom that I’d be the guy that got to do this.
Being able to hold up the pride flag in baseball has been the honor of my life.
As I head back to Nashville to begin another offseason of workouts, I am filled with a mountain of gratitude for the people who have supported me along the way.
Since telling my story publicly, I have been asked a lot of questions from other athletes and the media. During this sudden interest, there have been a few key things I have realized.
While I am no ‘expert’ on the topic of coming out in men’s team sports, whoever you are —baseball player or not — maybe these three words of wisdom from your friendly journeyman ballplayer will hit home.
1. Nobody really cares whom you date. As long as you are a good teammate, work hard in practice, bring positive vibes to the ballclub and carry yourself in a professional manner, nobody will have a problem with you. And if for some reason they’re in the minority of people who do, that’s on them.
2. There are a whole lot more queer people in baseball than anybody actually knows about. Trust me. Over the past month I have received messages from players and coaches at all levels of the game. You’ve already heard from one, Kieran Lovegrove, a bisexual Minor League Pitcher who came out last week. There will be more. I can’t wait for the day where coming out doesn’t even have to be a thing.
3. Whoever you are, whatever you are struggling with: You are not alone. Embrace who you are and live your truth. Tell someone you trust when the time is right for you, and you just might find yourself playing your best version of life because of it. Whether you make a living on or off the field-no matter what you do-authenticity can’t lose.
Bryan Ruby is a journeyman baseball player and the subject of the upcoming documentary Out In Nashville. He graduated from Vassar College in 2019, where he was a 2-year team captain and received awards for Leadership and Character. While not traversing the globe playing ball, he lives in Nashville and writes songs for various Country Music Recording artists.