Meet the 12 out gay players in Major League and minor league baseball history

Pro baseball, including Major League Baseball, has been played for about 175 years in the U.S. and during that time there have been only three gay or bi players in MLB who have come out, and nine in the minor leagues, including one woman.

It’s a weak legacy for a sport that did not accept Black players until 1947 and has always had a more conservative bent institutionally, so no one should have expected the sport to be welcoming to openly gay players. In contrast, the NFL has had 16 players who came out, including one who did so while active.

Yet progress has been made — many of the names on this list came out in the last 15 years, showing a growing acceptance. Six of these players, all in the minors, were out while still playing. There have also been out prominent front-office executives who have pushed inclusion. Yet the big victory will be having the first out active MLB player, something that has not yet happened.

As the 2024 season starts, here are the Major League Baseball and minor league players who have come out as gay or bi.

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Glenn Burke (Outfielder: Los Angles Dodgers, Oakland A’s, 1976-79)
As I wrote back in 2010: What’s remarkable about Burke is how out he was in the 1970s. Not in a “Hey world, I’m gay” way, but in the sense that his teammates knew as did the management of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Burke’s first team, and eventually fans who would taunt him from the outfield bleachers in Oakland by calling him a “fag.” A memorable moment came when the Dodgers — trying to stifle rumors that a popular player was gay — offered Burke $75,000 to get married. His reply: “I guess you mean to a woman?”

There is some debate as to whether Burke was an “out active player,” but Outsports has never considered him so, though that was not necessarily his doing. His teammates knew he was gay since he made little attempt to hide who he was, and fans suspected, but Burke did not publicly talk about being gay until 1982, after he had retired. 


In fact, Allen Barra, writing in the Atlantic in 2013, said of Burke: “His story was greeted by the rest of the news media and the baseball establishment, including Burke’s former teammates and baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, with silence. Even his superb autobiography, ‘Out at Home,’ which published the year he died, failed to stir open conversation about homosexuality in sports. Practically no one in the sports-writing community would acknowledge that Burke was gay or report stories that followed up on his admission.”

Burke is credited with inventing the high-five along with then-Dodgers teammate Dusty Baker. Burke died from AIDS complications in 1995. 

Billy Bean (Outfielder, first baseman: Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, 1987-95)
Bean was closeted during his Major League Baseball career and did not come out until 1999. Since then, though, he has been a forceful advocate for LGBTQ inclusion, especially since he joined the MLB front office.

Bean was Outsports’ Male Hero of the Year in 2015 and was on our inaugural Power 100 list last year. In December, he revealed he is battling leukemia.


TJ House (Pitcher: Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays, 2014-17)
House came out on Dec. 8, 2022, after attending a White House ceremony where President Biden signed the “Respect for Marriage Act” and where House announced his engagement.

“Today’s passage of the Respect for Marriage Act protects us to have the same rights and opportunities that each of you have,” House wrote on Facebook. “It protects the same benefits. It makes us equal to you. It allows Ryan Neitzel and I to come together and create something beautiful. It gives me the confidence to get engaged to the person I love (he said Yes!), to marry them. I have a wonderful fiance, who challenges me daily to become a better person. To live life authentically. One who I never deserved but blessed to have. Love you see, it’s for everyone.”

Minor leagues

Anderson Comas (Pitcher, 2017-23)
Comas came out in 2023, writing: “I’m proudly and happily part of the LGTBQ+ community. I’m also a human with a great soul, I’m respectful, I’m a lover, I love my family and friends and that’s what really matters, I enjoy my work a lot, being a professional baseball player is the best thing that happened to me so I just wanna say something to those people that says that gay people can not be someone in this life, well look at me I’m Gay and I’m a professional athlete.”

David Denson (Outfielder, first baseman, 2013-16)
Denson came out publicly as gay and received immediate support from the Milwaukee Brewers organization. He retired in 2017.

Solomon Bates (Pitcher, 2016-23)
Bates came out to his teammates in 2019 and publicly in 2022. “I haven’t been out as my complete self because I’ve been hiding myself,” he said. “I’m a masculine man who loves the sport of baseball, and now I want to open up doors for gay athletes like me.”

Ty Dunnington (Pitcher, 2014)
Dunnington’s is a sad story, as he told Outsports that he quit baseball when his teammates made offensive remarks about gays.

“I was also one of the unfortunate closeted gay athletes who experienced years of homophobia in the sport I loved,” he wrote. “I was able to take most of it with a grain of salt but towards the end of my career I could tell it was affecting my relationships with people, my performance, and my overall happiness.

“I experienced both coaches and players make remarks … during my time in baseball, and each comment felt like a knife to my heart. I was miserable in a sport that used to give me life, and ultimately I decided I needed to hang up my cleats for my own sanity.” 

Sean Conroy (Pitcher, 2015-16)
On June 25, 2015, Sean Conroy, a pitcher for the minor league Sonoma Stompers in California, made history by becoming the first openly gay active professional baseball player. This led the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., to display the lineup card and scorecard from the game.

“It’s very humbling and completely unexpected,” Conroy told the Hall of Fame. All of Conroy’s teammates signed the lineup card,


Jason Burch (Pitcher, 2003-08)
Burch played for four minor league teams and told teammates he was gay if they asked. His one regret was not coming out publicly while active.

“Looking back, I wish I had told the whole world that I’m gay from Day 1,” he told Outsports. “That feeling of being relied upon, that people must turn to you as a closer to make things right, to have that role – and to have people have that feeling about me in that role – as a gay man, I think that would have been a powerful message. If we are talking about changing people’s opinions, I do think that would have been a powerful message. But I wasn’t really thinking about that at the time.”

Kieran Lovegrove (Pitcher, 2012-21)
After struggling with his identity for years, Lovegrove took a chance in 2018 with teammates and never looked back.

“I made some off-hand comment and one of my teammates was just like, ‘So what do you identify as? Because you’re not straight, are you?’” Lovegrove said. “And I was like, ‘No, I’m not. I’m bisexual. I appreciate you asking.’ And everyone was just like, ‘Oh, cool! OK! Cool!’”

“Then we had nine hours left on the bus ride. And from that point, everyone just sort of embraced that as a fact of my life and didn’t treat me any differently because of it.”

Bryan Ruby (Infielder)
Ruby played in six foreign countries and in a U.S. independent league and came out in 2021. He is also a co-founder of Proud To Be In Baseball, an advocacy and support group focused on elevating LGBTQ inclusion in the sport. He is also an accomplished musician based in Nashville.

Ila Borders (Pitcher, 1997-2000)
Borders was the first woman to earn a scholarship in collegiate men’s baseball and a pitcher in the independent minor leagues in the late 1990s. Borders’ girlfriend is Sherri Murrell, at one time the first out gay coach in women’s Division I basketball.

Outsports writer Ken Schultz contributed to this report.