Professional baseball player creates support group

Bryan Ruby used to Google regularly “an openly gay professional baseball player”. He suspected that he wasn’t the only one looking for someone in a closet like him to serve as a ray of hope so he didn’t have to hide any longer.

Now that Google search leads directly to his own name, Ruby has become the only openly gay professional baseball player active in a USA TODAY Sports coming out story last month.

The aftermath of Ruby’s coming out was a whirlwind that completely changed her life. As he has converged his two professional identities – as a baseball player for the independent league Salem-Keizer Volcanoes and country musician – with his own identity, he is now welcomed into a new source of identity: model and defender. Ruby said he had previously counseled several athletes from diverse backgrounds and wanted to “light a path” for others that had previously been obscured.

“I received more support than I’ve ever had in my life,” Ruby told USA TODAY Sports. “All the fears I had that people would hate me or get shot in the head with a speedy bullet never happened.”

Ruby has joined NFL player Carl Nassib and NHL minor league player Luke Prokop as one of only three professional male athletes to be publicly absent. But his coming out could just be the sport’s first domino, as a minor league pitcher. Kieran Lovegrove was released a few weeks later and reached out to Ruby to let her know how inspiring he was through his story.

In addition to Lovegrove, Ruby said hundreds of people in the LGBTQ community have contacted him, including some in baseball who are locked up and, as he once was, looking for a place to take refuge. and steer. That’s why Ruby helped create Proud to be in baseball, a nonprofit support group that can serve as a beacon that Ruby has been looking for for so long.

He has collaborated with fellow players Michael Holland (head of college level) and Sam Culwell (head of high school level), and the group has over 30 members.

“We are a player-founded advocacy and support group born out of a need for LGBTQ + representation at the ballpark,” the website read. “No queer person in baseball should feel alone. We’re here to help.”

Ruby said that while he has Billy Bean, MLB vice president and special assistant to the commissioner, as a mentor throughout his journey, not all players have that fortune. It’s there that Proud to be in baseball can fill a gap.

“Sometimes there’s a mismatch that professional sports leagues can have with the players,” Ruby said. “It’s a way for players to come together. Most players (in secret) don’t trust people in costume. They have a hard time trusting management, people at the front office, journalists in media. But players or former players can relate. That’s what we’re trying to deliver. ”

Ruby said her support group wasn’t necessarily about professional or college baseball players speaking out publicly and that it was heavily focused on camaraderie and mentoring given the fears and emotional rigors of being gay in a sport where homophobia persists. While Ruby knows her own coming out story reflects a recent Outdoor Sports / University of Winchester Study which found that over 95% of athletes who come out have a “neutral” or “positive” response from their teammates, fears at all levels of baseball – which often come from top to bottom – always make it a complicated individual process .

“There are real world issues that we still have to consider,” Ruby said. “Some of the fears we have in the closet may be irrational, but they are based on the possibility or the reality of what could actually happen. Not everything is warm and hazy. Otherwise 100 more players would be in baseball. . ”

Virginia S. Braud