Yesterday, former Major League Baseball player Billy Bean partnered with the New York Yankees to meet with LGBT youth in Manhattan. Billy Bean left the game in 1995 before coming out publicly as gay four years later, and just one month ago, he was appointed as the MLB's first ever ambassador for inclusion. Bean was joined by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and assistant general manager Jean Afterman at the Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI), the nation's oldest and largest social services agency dedicated to helping LGBT youth.
During yesterday's visit to HMI, Bean, Cashman, and Afterman sat down for a Q&A with some of the young people who use the Institute's services. HMI offers unique programming and a safe and supportive environment for at-risk LGBT youth and young adults, ages 13-24. It is also home to the Harvey Milk High School, a fully accredited and inclusive public high school named in honor of equality champion Harvey Milk.
Bean told the group, "What you guys are doing, you're being put in a position to become great leaders in your community…and your bravery to be your best honest self, it inspires me to continue to be out there and do all the work I can to try to make your lives more visible so people can learn from you."
But while Bean was inspired by the group, they were equally inspired by him. 20-year-old Kelson Saul told an MLB reporter:
"The fact that they came out to reach out to the LGBT community personally, it was a very awesome thing for them to do. It gave the LGBT community hope that we can do the same thing that they can do, and we don't have to be scared to follow our passion."
Thomas Krever, CEO of HMI, said:
"We realize that we're in the dawning of a new age, literally. And this is the generation that inherits the earth. And to hear Mr. Cashman, to hear Billy, to be so affirmative and affirming of who and what they are and to offer welcoming, I think it sends a powerful message. When you're working with a population that has the highest prevalence of suicide, depression, anxiety, and trauma, to hear words of hope and inclusion for their future, it really can make a huge profound difference in their lives."
Cashman and Afterman passed around their 2009 World Series championship rings for the group to see and touch, and the three visitors posed for photos with the group. In addition to the fun stuff, the visitors offered wisdom to the group and affirmed their commitment to making sure LGBT players are fully included on the field.
Wendy Ledesma, an education specialist at HMI, reflected:
"It meant a lot for them to see that people in outside agencies do care about the LGBT community, especially youth and young adults. I believe these young people are going to cherish this experience for a very long time; I know I will."
Support for the LGBT community in Major League Baseball has been increasing in recent years. In 2010, the Yankees took a stand against homophobic abuse by fans in their stadium. Yankee Stadium security guards warned fans that their homophobic language would not be tolerated and would result in ejection from the stadium. In 2013, the MLB followed suit, reinforcing their anti-discrimination policy and strengthening their commitment to valuing diversity on the field. And the MLB has partnered with GLAAD for Spirit Day, a day where millions around the world go purple in support of LGBT youth and against bullying.