This article is part of a series of op-eds that out professional baseball player Bryan Ruby will be sharing with Outsports readers throughout 2022. Bryan is also a co-founder of Proud To Be In Baseball, an advocacy and support group focused on elevating LGBTQ inclusion in the sport.
For years, I was told that coming out publicly would wholeheartedly destroy my chances of ever again getting a job in baseball. Actually, the opposite was true.
“We’re cool with you being gay and all that, just don’t ever say anything publicly and DEFINITELY don’t post anything with a rainbow on social media.”
This was the advice given to me by one of my most trusted baseball “advisors” just days before the start of the 2021 season.
He went even further.
“Actually, it’s probably best to get a girlfriend for the season — so you can squash any rumors that might be flying around.”
What was this, 1980?
That’s the moment I knew for sure that I needed to come out publicly. Funny how motivation works.
As I sit down to write this, 26 years old and embarking on my fourth summer of baseball after college, I can’t help but think about how wrong that “advisor” turned out to be.
Let me give you a little inside scoop on what went down after I came out.
Heading into it, I took the advice of my role model, Billy Bean, who had wisely told me back in college: “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.” So, I laced up my cleats with rainbow shoelaces and began quietly telling my teammates during Pride Month last June.
After that went well, I came out publicly on Sept. 2, which went well. I launched Proud To Be In Baseball on National Coming Out Day in October, which went well. I then began writing and speaking more publicly on the topic, which has also gone well.
Sense a pattern yet?
I had a follow-up conversation with that same “advisor” just a few weeks ago. His response to the overwhelming positivity surrounding our new LGBTQ ballplayer nonprofit was typical: ‘Well that’s great Ruby, but will you ever get a job in baseball again?’
After coming out and hearing from ballplayers all around the world like me, I can tell you definitively that this is the No. 1 fear shared by all the closeted guys in baseball (and damn, there are more than you’d think). Honestly, I get it. I had this fear too up until I opened my inbox a few months ago.
Inside those messages sat three offers: an offer to return to Indy Ball in the US, an offer to play winter ball in Australia, and even an offer to play overseas in the Netherlands. It was three times as many job offers as I’d ever received in any previous season.
So, is all of this because I came out?
No, actually, not at all.
I had a solid season last year relative to my level of Independent Baseball — I hit over .300 and helped my team make it to the championship of our league. That’s only the half truth, because my end of season batting average improved 90 points from where it was before I came out to my teammates.
I guess coming out does help take the weight off of your shoulders, after all.
This is my message to the guys looking to me for leadership in the queer baseball player community: You gotta be you, and if you’re gay, that’s a big part of yourself to waste precious energy over hiding in plain sight every day.
We talk about this all the time at Proud To Be In Baseball. The biggest thing we hear is what we call “The Job Question”: the legitimate concern of whether or not being gay will impede you from getting a job in baseball. These are our livelihoods, after all.
So to prove a point, I’ll be checking in with y’all once a month throughout the remainder of this baseball season. You’ll get my player’s perspective on all the hot topics having to do with being queer in baseball. You’ll be on the ground with me as I shepherd Proud To Be In Baseball around MLB and MiLB Pride Nights this June, then as I lace my rainbow spikes up later this summer.
If you’re a ballplayer and you have a question, send it over to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll try to answer it in my next column.
In the meantime, look for our Proud To Be In Baseball crew at ballparks around the country in the upcoming weeks. The weather is warm, the summer is finally upon us, and it’s a damn good time to be gay in baseball. Then when it comes time to lace ‘em up later this summer and play, you’ll see me on the ballfield.
Because, once and for all, I know now that if I want to work, I’m going to be able to go to work.