Headlines emerged over this past weekend proclaiming that for the first time, a player in a Major League Baseball team’s system had outed himself as homosexual while actively engaged in playing the game. David Denson, a 20-year-old first baseman who was a 15th-round selection of the Milwaukee Brewers two years ago, revealed his homosexuality to his teammates, other employees of the organization, and then the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
The reaction by the baseball community thus far, at least that which was publicly stated, has been either support for Denson or silence. Denson’s professional baseball career has been rather unremarkable thus far. He is still playing rookie ball and doing so with a sub-.260 batting average, although very recent returns have been better. The fact that Denson’s revelation has barely caused a ripple in the day-to-day affairs of MLB is a tremendous positive sign.
The goal for professional athletes who have gender presentations and/or sexual orientations outside the traditional norms has never been to acquire special treatment or to parade what makes them different. The goal has always been, and will always be, for those facts to be just as irrelevant as they are regarding a pro athlete whose gender presentation and sexual orientation fits those norms. He/she wants to be held to and judged by the exact same standards of what kind of a teammate he/she is and whether or not he/she can play the game.
We saw last year what happens in a similar scenario when the scenario is considered earth-shattering. Michael Sam’s coming out as gay was descended upon by every national news media organization in the United States. ESPN filmed his every move from draft day to training camp with the St. Louis Rams. An unfortunate side effect of the media circus was that Sam’s fate in making a National Football League roster became a public referendum on whether or not a homosexual man could play in the NFL (despite the fact that several NFL veterans have come out of the closet after retiring).
So far, this is different. Perhaps if Denson were closer to getting promoted to Milwaukee’s major-league roster, more of a commotion would have been stirred. We will see what plays out if Denson ever does ascend to that level. Until then, the main thing has stayed the main thing in regards to Denson’s story, and that is baseball.
This is an encouraging sign for all. MLB is a place where the majority doesn’t care about your sexual orientation. Not only will future players like Denson not have to hide their sexual orientations, but they don’t have to worry about it constantly being brought up either. They can focus on baseball and getting better at it. For the families of such players, they need no longer worry about their brother/son being the victim of assault or shunned by his teammates. Coaches, front office personnel and managers don’t have to dread the unending barrage of media looking to milk that poor withered cow until it’s dry. Fans of Denson’s team in Helena, Mont., can continue to support their hometown team without being sucked into a media circus.
What we’re seeing is that the Brewers – and their fans – are only concerned about three things when it comes to Denson: what kind of a teammate he is, whether or not he can field his position and if he can get on base regularly. Everything else about Denson is irrelevant, and that’s wonderful.