There are two ways to view the 2023 World Series: on the field, the Texas Rangers have a slight advantage over the Arizona Diamondbacks, but it’s not big enough to make an upset inconceivable.
When it comes to supporting the LGBTQ community in baseball, however, it’s one of the biggest mismatches in history. If Arizona and Texas squared off based their LGBTQ records, the D-backs would sweep the Series and win every game 9-0. Because that’s the score when one team forfeits.
Over the past 20 years, Arizona has employed some of Major League Baseball’s most prominent LGBTQ leaders.
Working in Arizona’s front office from 2005 to 2022, Nona Lee helped to create the Diamondbacks legal department and was eventually promoted to executive vice president and chief legal officer. Her proudest moment was founding D-backs for Change, a team-wide inclusion initiative.
The LGBTQ+ resource group of D-backs for Change is led by manager of community partnerships and programs Noel Guevara, who has worked with Arizona for 11 years and helped to organize the team’s first Pride Night in 2017.
Inclusion also plays an important role in the team’s clubhouse as D-backs manager Torey Lovullo is one of Billy Bean’s closest friends. And the story of the four-decade-long bond between the two is a more significant connection than even the one between Luis Gonzalez and Mariano Rivera’s cutter.
Lovullo and Bean met during their college years when they played summer ball together in 1984. Hailing from opposing schools, they quickly developed a mutual admiration so deep that Bean became a favorite of Lovullo’s whole family, including his baseball fanatic grandfather.
Soon they were both drafted by the Detroit Tigers and their friendship deepened, serving as each other’s support system through the minor leagues.
Then after Bean was traded to the Dodgers, he and Lovullo made a promise. As Bean told MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince, “Whichever one of us becomes a manager first has to make the other guy his bench coach.”
To that point, it was a sweet and standard story of baseball friendship. But as Lovullo later found out, Bean was already going to excruciating lengths to hide the fact that he was gay.At the time, Lovullo had no inkling of the internal chaos his friend was enduring.
As the havoc of staying in the closet played out in Bean’s life, he left his baseball career behind and drifted apart from Lovullo and everyone else in the game. Lovullo found out Bean was gay through a segment on “20/20” and was saddened that his friend had never confided in him.
The two didn’t see each other for a decade. But when Lovullo’s grandfather was in failing health in 2005, he reached out. Bean paid a visit to Lovullo and his ailing grandpa and that rekindled the friendship.
When Lovullo landed his managing gig with Arizona in 2017, Bean was sitting in the front row behind the D-backs dugout on Opening Day and on his feet cheering as Arizona walked off the Giants.
A year later, when Bean was touring Arizona’s clubhouse to tell his life story as a gay man in professional baseball, Lovullo was standing by his side to offer his love and support.
As MLB vice president and special assistant to the commissioner, Bean’s job title was a bit longer than bench coach. But Lovullo was keeping his promise all the same.
“I count on this friendship. I love my time with him. I love Billy,” Lovullo said. “It just goes to show you that when you build things the right way, if things stumble, that you can always come out the other side. I’m just thankful that it’s back to where it was many, many years ago.”
During their run through the postseason, the Rangers have been motivating their team by blasting Creed’s greatest hits.
Which was an interesting choice. Because the last time the Rangers held an LGBTQ event was the same year when Creed was nominated for a Grammy.
If you attended a Rangers game in the year 2023, you were more likely to hear “With Arms Wide Open” than “Padam Padam.” That’s a crime against music — and quite possibly humanity.
Believe it or not, the Rangers actually hosted an LGBTQ fundraising event in 2003 for groups like the Dallas Gay Softball League and Texas Gay Rodeo Assn. But since this was held in Texas during the George W. Bush presidency, it caused a backlash.
Angry fans assembled a website called protestgayday.com and wrote, “The Texas Rangers should be ashamed. This event legitimizes the perverted gay and lesbian lifestyle in the eyes of the unsuspecting innocent child.”
Yes, how dare those gays and lesbians corrupt a day when unsuspecting innocent children just wanted to cheer Rangers paragons of virtue like Alex Rodríguez and Rafael Palmeiro?
Those voices won out and two decades later, the Rangers are the only team in baseball that still doesn’t host a Pride Night.
It’s as if they decided to deliberately schedule an organizational embarrassment every June, an entire month where the front office is Jose Canseco and Pride Night is a routine fly ball bouncing off his head for a home run.
As the Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli reported, the general consensus is that many people who work with the Rangers want to host a Pride Night but someone very powerful in ownership is dead set against it.
“High enough that even anonymously, people are nervous talking about it,” she wrote.
Always a sign of a healthy organization when Pride is mentioned in the same tone as the Candyman.
The Rangers have plenty of LGBTQ fans who would love a night to celebrate their community. For their part, the Rangers sponsored the 2022 Gay Softball World Series in Dallas — but didn’t bother to publicize it.
Furthermore, sportswriter Alex Plinck, who is gay, has been a beat reporter covering the Rangers for years and has attested to how welcome the team’s players and managers have made him feel. He’ll be covering the 2023 World Series for Dallas Sports Fanatic.
All of which makes it profoundly frustrating and weird for the Rangers to hold out against Pride Nights. On one side, front office employees, players, media and an entire community are for them.
On the other, one rich guy won’t do it. And somehow, the Rangers going against his wishes during Pride Month would be an even bigger upset than beating the Astros.