Like anyone with functioning emotions, I was elated to read this week’s news of Minor League Baseball player Solomon Bates coming out publicly as gay.
As the late great Vin Scully was fond of pointing out, in baseball, “momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher.” With Bates following in the rotation after Kieran Lovegrove publicly came out as bisexual last season, it seems like baseball is starting to establish a healthy trend of LGBTQ players feeling comfortable enough to share their true selves and finding acceptance among their teammates.
At least on the minor league level. It’s actually pretty cool to realize that when we talk about the players who came out first during this era, we’ll have to remember that the push for inclusivity was led by teams like the Flying Squirrels and the Trash Pandas.
In the brief time since Bates has come out, one quality of his has especially stood out: his well-earned self-confidence. In the voice of an athlete who has just shared his sexuality with the world for the first time, it’s a beautiful thing.
During his interview with Outsports, Bates asserted: “I want people to see my stats and let people know gay men can play baseball. I was on the verge of doing that, my shot just ended up short.”
Within his coming out Instagram post, he said, “I’m still going to open up doors for gay athletes like me. Still will strive to be one of the greatest to do it.”
Then in responding on Twitter to the question of whether his sexuality will be an issue for teams looking to sign him for 2023, Bates gave an answer for the ages:
It shouldn't be an issue. I'm out pitching all of their heterosexual pitchers they love. https://t.co/rpzvfc2txa— Solomon Bates (@SolomonBates_) August 10, 2022
This kind of belief in himself is an inspiration to LGBTQ fans everywhere. And it’s not at all surprising to see it coming from a baseball player trying to claw his way up the ladder to the big leagues.
Because baseball is a game of failure more than any other sport, in order to maintain anything resembling a consistent level of performance (not to mention sanity), elite players have to develop an almost superhuman level of self-confidence—often bordering on bravado.
Picture both Drag Race queens turning it out during the famous Etta James lip sync for your life. Every baseball player has to find that level of belief within themselves in order to survive. Regardless of how many times they have come up short, they must believe that when they throw the next pitch, they’re going to dominate.
(And if some day Baseball Reference lists Jorgeous as the number-one similarity score for Bryce Harper, my work here is done.)
Baseball players have to develop this extreme level of love for themselves because they learn early on that no one else is going to do it for them.
Hmm…has anyone ever written that about being gay? Or bi? Or trans? In this way, Bates is showing the way for all of us.
Seeing that belief in self come through in Bates’ words is a reminder that whenever an LGBTQ baseball player comes out, he (Or she! Or they!) will get to know what it’s like to let their confidence flow for the first time, uninhibited by having to keep their identity a secret.
In all likelihood, that’s going to free them to believe in themselves even more on the field, and possibly even make them a better player. Which is precisely what’s coming through in Bates’ quotes.
Baseball teams are always trying to be the first to find a new market inefficiency. Hopefully, Bates can demonstrate that the next one could be “a gay player finally free to be himself.”