It’s been less than a month since pitcher Solomon Bates came out publicly as gay, and about three weeks since he signed on with the minor league Sioux City Explorers, where he has found a home.
“They don’t care I’m gay, just as long as we’re all on one wavelength, and that’s playing baseball,” Bates said of his new teammates in an interview with the Sioux City Journal. “It’s very comforting. When I got here, I was very skeptical. I thought about, ‘OK, I have to keep to myself,’ but no, they’ve been very welcoming. I’ve been part of the family.”
His manager, Steve Montgomery, shares the acceptance and embrace of Bates.
“It’s absolutely outstanding,” Montgomery said. “Outstanding. I couldn’t be more proud of my team. They’ve welcomed him with open arms.
“To walk in that dugout, and throw 45 pitches [on Aug. 12 at Winnipeg], when we had just two bullpen arms available, [Solomon] came up and said he could throw an inning or two, he earned my respect,” Montgomery said. “I knew he was out of gas, but he took the ball.”
Montgomery was referencing how Bates was summoned to pitch despite just being signed after being released by the San Francisco Giants organization. The Explorers play in the American Assn. of Professional Baseball, an independent league. Bates had a 17-6 record in the minor leagues.
Bates has played well for Sioux City, with a 22-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio heading into this past weekend.
“He’s a Double-A arm,” Montgomery said, referring to the higher leagues of the minor leagues. “I don’t know why he got released. What he does away from [Lewis and Clark Park, where Sioux City plays], is totally up to him. He comes into this locker room and he puts on his pants the same way we do.”
Bates is proving to be a current example of an out athlete capable of playing at a high level after coming out. He’s blazing a trail that we can hope others follow.