Feb 15, 2024; Tampa, FL, USA; MLB commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media at George M. Steinbrenner Field. | Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Outsports has reached out to the commissioners of the Big Five sports leagues in America, asking them about LGBTQ inclusion and Pride Month. This is part of that series.

Major League Baseball has had two former players talk publicly about being gay, and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is sharing his thoughts on LGBTQ inclusion in baseball.

Glenn Burke is a legend in the gay-athlete world, having reportedly been partly out while he was playing with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Years later, Billy Bean would play for the Dodgers and San Diego Padres while in a relationship but also in the closet. Bean would later come out publicly and take a major role with Major League Baseball, which he still holds today.

Bean made the introduction to MLB Commissioner Manfred, who answered a few written questions from Outsports about LGBTQ inclusion in baseball.

Manfred said there is one element of MLB’s LGBTQ inclusion outreach that Manfred is most proud of.

“Our player education program, ‘Ahead in the Count,'” Manfred told Outsports. “It has instilled and continues to foster a culture of acceptance across our sport. 

“MLB players are and will always be our greatest ambassadors. Upon being drafted or signing a professional contract every young player is presented with programming about MLB values.  This has all but eliminated biased comments on social media from our players and created a welcoming clubhouse culture for working MLB professionals of every identity.”

Manfred said he and MLB would not get involved in a player’s interest in coming out publicly as gay, bi or otherwise.

“A player’s decision to come out publicly (or not) is an incredibly personal decision,” he said. “Every player is part of a supportive environment that focuses on their off-field development and well-being as citizens as well as their development as players. We would never influence a player to make any type of personal decision in a public platform, but we will continue to support our players in every way possible.”

Manfred also spoke glowingly about MLB’s LGBTQ employee resource group and other elements of the league’s community outreach.

“I would share about our inclusive player education programming discussing LGBTQ acceptance, a thriving MLB Employee Resource Group called ‘MLB PRIDE,’ and our employment recruiting efforts led by Billy Bean (DEI Department) with outreach to LGBTQ professionals in media and tech, and LGBTQ university students (on-campus and virtual career fairs). Our ballpark messaging continues to evolve in a way that strives to make every fan feel welcome and part of the MLB family.”

Beyond the league front office and team front offices, Manfred pointed to the league’s outreach to players, in an effort to create a welcoming environment in the locker room.

“MLB players are a tremendously diverse collection of professional athletes, with players coming from many different cultures from all over the world,” he told Outsports. “Education is an essential part of their development. I am proud to say that all 30 clubs across the league participate in our programming.

“Every conversation about inclusion focuses on the toxic effects of all forms of bias and discrimination, including homophobia.”