US & Canada

Baseball welcomes first openly gay professional player

Sonoma Stompers pitcher Sean Conroy Image copyright AP
Image caption Conroy has been out since he was 16

Baseball has welcomed its first openly gay professional player, in a minor-league game in California.

Pitcher Sean Conroy, 23, took the mound for the Sonoma Stompers after agreeing to come out publicly in time for the team stadium's gay pride night.

The team is part of the independent Pacific Association of Baseball Clubs.

Several baseball players have disclosed their sexual orientation while in retirement but Conroy is thought to be the first active player to do so.

New Yorker Conroy joined The Stompers from college in May and had already told his team-mates and coaching staff he was gay, said general manager Theo Fightmaster.

"His goal has always been to be the first openly gay baseball player so he was very much in favour of telling the story, of carrying that torch," he said.

Major League Baseball historian John Thorn said he thought Conroy was the first active professional to come out.

Both Glenn Burke (Oakland Athletics and LA Dodgers) and Billy Bean (Detroit Tigers, LA Dodgers and San Diego Padres) did so after they retired.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Conroy, right, gets a handshake from catcher Isaac Wenrich

Conroy told his family he was gay when he was 16 and he said it was important to be honest with his new team-mates, especially when conversation turns to girlfriends.

"Instead of getting the different looks or questions when I didn't join them, I'd rather tell you the truth and let you know who I am and have real conversations instead of the fake ones," he said.

Some Stompers will wear rainbow-themed socks or symbols to mark the occasion, the club has said.

Other gay players in US sports

Image copyright Getty Images

Football: Robbie Rogers scored his first goal for LA Galaxy this week

Basketball: Jason Collins played 13 seasons in the NBA

American football: Michael Sam was drafted by the St Louis Rams, now plays in Canada

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