David Denson, a player for a Milwaukee Brewer's affiliate team in Helena, Montana, has made baseball history - and he wasn't even on field. The first baseman publicly announced to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (after telling his family, team, and other important friends) that he is gay. This make him the first active player to come out publicly.
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"Talking with my teammates, they gave me the confidence I needed, coming out to them," Denson told sports writer Tom Haudricourt for the article. "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.'"
Denson has a batting average of .245 with 4 home runs, 18 RBIs and is the 27th ranked prospect for the Brewers. He's played in 42 games. He was selected for the team in the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft in the 15th round from South Hills High School in West Covina, California.
While other MLB players like Billy Bean have come out of the closet after retiring, Denson is the first to do so while playing. As Major League Baseball's first Ambassador for Inclusion, Bean counseled Denson on his decision to reveal he is gay.
"Any player who happens to be gay and is a professional and has kept that secret, they just want to be judged for their baseball or football or basketball ability. David would not be playing professional baseball if he wasn't an excellent baseball player," Bean told the Journal Sentinel.
"The beauty of what could come from this is he can be an example that can help change that perception and change the stereotype that there would never be a gay person on a men's professional sports team. That was something I struggled with."
Denson also said that he knew he was gay when he was selected, but concealed his sexuality. He said that he knew he wanted to let them know when it weighed heavily on his mind during spring training this year.
"It became a depression level," he said. "I wasn't being myself. It was visible in my body language. I didn't know if I should still stay in the sport."
He isn't doing this for the publicity or a fast way to the top, Bean explains. "David is very humble. It's really about being his best self. He's a great baseball player, but he needs to be his best self to get to the big leagues."
The Brewers' leadership had a lot to say about the announcement. They released an official statement via Twitter:
The message said: "David is a highly respected member of the Milwaukee Brewers family, and he is a very courageous young man," Milwaukee Brewers President Doug Melvin said in a statement. "Our goal for David is to help develop him into a Major League player, just as it is for any player in our system, and we will continue to support him in every way as he chases that dream."
CNN also received word from some of Denson's teammates:
"Proud of my teammate David Denson. Extremely brave guy. Much respect for him!" Helena Brewers outfielder Troy Stokes said.
"Sexuality does not dictate ones ability to play the game of baseball or be a good teammate. Nothing but support for our brother David Denson," catcher Mitch Ghelfi said.
"Proud of my teammate and brother David Denson for coming out and being himself, ton of respect for him as a player and person," catcher Charles Galiano said.
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Let's hope that Denson continues to receive positive feedback from everyone around him and continues to be an excellent role model for young children who want to play the game.