Dale Scott, a Major League Baseball umpire for the last 29 years, has come out as gay, making him baseball’s first umpire to do so.
“I’m also not worried because I do know who I am. I think Major League Baseball has proven that it certainly isn’t an issue with them. I’ve worked three World Series, I’ve worked the playoffs consistently, I’ve been a crew chief for 12 years. Obviously, if they had an issue with my life, it would be shown in my career with lack of assignments.
“I am extremely grateful that Major League Baseball has always judged me on my work and nothing else and that’s the way it should be.”
Baseball has joined the other sports leagues in making strides toward a more open atmosphere in recent years. It added sexual orientation to its non-discrimination clause in its latest round of collective bargaining negotiations, and this year hired former Major Leaguer Billy Bean as its ambassador of inclusion in an effort to make it more inclusive and open to gay players, fans, executives, and everyone else in the game. Matt Schulte, a Kansas City Royals marketing executive, publicly came out as gay just after this year’s World Series.
That Scott was able to do his job without incident even as his colleagues — and, presumably, his supervisors — knew about his sexuality would suggest that baseball has indeed made substantial progress, and LGBT activists have cited Bean’s hiring and other moves baseball has made as steps in the right direction. Still, umpires generally toil in anonymity (and prefer to do so, as attention normally means controversy), so while Scott’s coming out represents progress, baseball’s real influence on the issue won’t come until it has an openly gay player. The closest it has come to that was Glenn Burke, a Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics outfielder who was open to his teammates throughout his career.
Burke retired in 1979.
Earlier this year, ESPN The Magazine surveyed MLB players and found that 81 percent felt the game was ready for a player to come out. But as athletes like Michael Sam and Jason Collins have shown, while players often get the blame for a “locker room culture” that keeps gay players in the closet, the biggest hurdles aren’t always with their teammates. Instead, the trouble can be with coaches, executives, and front office employees who aren’t ready to welcome gay players, or are needlessly scared that they will become a “distractions” to their teams.
Scott told OutSports that he hoped his story would inspire young gay umpires who might doubt whether they can make it to the Major Leagues because of their sexuality. But given that the game is still waiting on its first publicly out player, hopefully having an openly gay man on the field from Opening Day through the World Series, which Scott has worked three times, will keep pushing the sport toward the time when baseball’s gay players are ready to come out too — and when the rest of baseball is ready to accept them.