We are heading into the middle of February, and there is a beautiful sight happening: The start of Spring Training in MLB. Pitchers and catchers have already reported and position players are slowly trickling in. Fort Myers is starting to buzz as the Boston Red Sox have arrived to start their defense of their World Championship. Normally in the sports world that would be fairly big news, but that has been basically blown out of the water by one very courageous person.
Michael Sam is an All-American defensive end of the Missouri Tigers, and it seems to be pretty certain that he will get drafted by an NFL team. He recently announced that he is gay and will be the first homosexual NFL Draft prospect. As much as he should just get recognized for his playing ability, the fact that he is gay will be in many people’s minds. He is going to be a trailblazer and now it has to be asked if he has opened the door for more athletes to be open about their sexuality and just be able to play the game they love.
It made me wonder about the sport that I love the most which is baseball. Would that sport be ready for an openly gay player to be a part of a roster? There has been a player who came out to his teammates and front office. Glenn Burke was an outfielder with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics who did tell his organization that he was gay. He was accepted for the most part but he did get traded and was eventually run out of baseball. He died a forgotten man.
Baseball has always been really slow to change, and some organizations have taken much longer to have an open mind about certain issues. Take for example the racial barrier. Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play baseball for the Dodgers in 1945. The Red Sox did not become integrated until almost twelve years later when Pumpsie Green pinch-ran in a game. As much as I love baseball and writing about it, this is a sport that just initiated instant replay on a regular basis this year. The designated hitter is still only being used by one league. Baseball is steeped in tradition, and I wonder if some people in the sport aren’t ready yet.
Michael Sam could face some of the same issues that Robinson did in terms of being the first in a professional sports clubhouse and locker room. He could face some hostility from opposing players and definitely from some fans in other cities. He is going to need to be strong because he could face a lot of adversity just by opening the door.
The Red Sox last year were a band of brothers and were about as cohesive of a team as you will ever see. I hope that their chemistry and togetherness can extend to someone who wants to play the sport just like them. A gay athlete ought to be known for just being an athlete. One’s sexuality shouldn’t define them, although, for now it will.
Not only will the sports world be watching to see what happens with Sam, but other gay athletes who perhaps have been afraid to come out could end up following behind him if he gets acceptance.
Red Sox Nation, how would you feel if a promising prospect was gay? If he is good for the team, I wouldn’t care one bit.