Milwaukee Brewers prospect David Denson revealed in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he is gay, becoming the first openly gay professional baseball player in an MLB-affiliated league.
Denson told the Journal-Sentinel that he came out to his teammates on the rookie-level Helena Brewers about a month ago, and that he decided upon consultation with MLB Ambassador for Inclusion Billy Bean to come out publicly.
Denson said his initial decision to come out was spurred by a teammate’s use of a gay slur, but that he received support upon revealing his sexuality. From the J-S:
“Talking with my teammates, they gave me the confidence I needed, coming out to them,” recalled Denson. “They said, ‘You're still our teammate. You're still our brother. We kind of had an idea, but your sexuality has nothing to do with your ability. You're still a ballplayer at the end of the day. We don't treat you any different. We've got your back.’
“That was a giant relief for me,” Denson said. “I never wanted to feel like I was forcing it on them. It just happened. The outcome was amazing. It was nice to know my teammates see me for who I am, not my sexuality.”
Saying he was experiencing depression and mental distress over continuing to hide his sexuality, Denson first revealed that he was gay to Brewers farm director Reid Nichols, high Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers manager Matt Erickson and hitting coordinator Jeremy Reed in a meeting during spring training before this season. Denson had played 68 games for Wisconsin in 2014.
On Sunday, the Brewers issued a statement about Denson:
“Davis is a highly-respected member of the Milwaukee Brewers family, and he is a very courageous young man. Our goal for David is to help devlop him into a major league player, just as it is for for any player in our system, and we will continue to support him in every way as he chases that dream.”
Just two other players in the history of MLB have publicly revealed they were gay: Glenn Burke and Bean, who was appointed to his aforementioned role by then-commissioner Bud Selig last July. Both came out after they had retired. Sean Conroy, who plays in the independent Pacific Association, became the first openly gay professional baseball player in June.
In other sports, Jason Collins became the first active openly gay player in the NBA in 2013, while Michael Sam became the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL last year. Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay player in MLS in 2013.
Denson, 20, was selected by the Brewers in the 15th round of the 2013 draft out of a California high school. The first baseman/outfielder, currently playing for Helena, has hit .232/.319/.368 with five home runs and 25 RBIs in 65 games between Helena and Wisconsin this season.
- Ben Estes