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Mariners hold first LGBTQ night

Billy+Bean+Milwaukee+Brewers+v+Seattle+Mariners+0msDOCWfnktlFor the first time in franchise history, the Mariners held an LGBTQ Night at Safeco Field on Friday night.

The event was highlighted by a pregame ceremony that honored eight Greater Seattle Business Association scholarship winners. The Mariners donated $5,000 to the GSBA, the largest LGBT and allied chamber of commerce in North America. At the center of it all was Billy Bean, Major League Baseball’s Vice President for Social Responsibility and Inclusion.

 Bean, who played for the Tigers, Dodgers, and Padres, came out in 1999 after his retirement. He threw out the first pitch Friday. Before the game, he spoke to reporters.

Question: Have you seen the LGBT movement move to the forefront of the conversation because of the Orlando nightclub shooting in June?

Answer: I always try to say the LGBT message is part of the overall diversity initiative. It’s not separate. We’re in a very interesting time and place where LGBT communities are used as kind of a polarizing topic in a political environment. When Orlando happened, that moves the conversation. I was extremely proud of Major League Baseball, wanting to make sure we’re all on the same page in a way to honor the victims and their families. Orlando is part of the baseball world as well. It’s not a big-league city, but it’s a spring-training location.

Q: As a former player, how have you tried to make sure that MLB becomes more inclusive? How have LGBT Nights such as tonight helped?

A: Being a former player allows me to have initial conversation that isn’t uncomfortable or clumsy with guys. I appreciate their courage and seeing that it is more than what my stats are. I want them to be able to make decisions that they’re willing to stand by and be informed. … The Mariners made a statement, and I’m proud to be a part of that.

Q: Are we close to seeing an openly gay MLB player?

A: I think to understand what that decision is like for a person, there’s no template that says, ‘OK, the temperature is good. It’s the time for it to happen.’ Most of these players are very young, they’re at the peak of their greatness. Emotionally, most of us did not have time to focus on our lives away from the field. That was part of my problem. … Our report card is not about how many; it’s if the player’s ready, I want it to be a positive experience and not for a player to feel that they’ve made a decision that was a bit ahead of its time or have the pressure for one athlete to carry the conversation on his back by himself every day.

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