One year after Major League Baseball prohibited players from harassing or discriminating against others based on their sexual orientation, Commissioner Bud Selig has hired a former player to be the league's first "Ambassador for Inclusion."
Billy Bean, who came out as gay in 1999 after he had retired from the game, will educate and provide players with guidance on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. He will also help assure that the league's workplace code of conduct is enforced.
Bean, who played for the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, aims to help players navigate the changing world of professional sports, which is opening the door to gay players.
Sometimes athletes find those changes difficult to respond to, Bean said, as some did when reporters asked them to respond to news that the St. Louis Rams had drafted University of Missouri star Michael Sam as the NFL's first openly gay player.
"So the world is getting smaller and expectations are getting higher and I think for today we're going to make life a little easier for them," Bean said. "That's my goal."
Major League Baseball officials say Bean will help develop training to educate players about sexism, homophobia and prejudice. Commissioner Bud Selig announced Bean's hiring Tuesday at a press conference at the All-Star FanFest at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
The league also honored former player Glenn Burke, who died in 1995, years after retiring from Major League Baseball and announcing he was gay.
"We want the people who make a living in our game to be who they wish to be," Selig said. "And as an institution, we will do all we can to support them."
Bean, who played off and on at the major league level from 1987 to 1995, hopes to make it easier for gay players in the sport. He said he walked away from baseball instead of reaching out and asking someone for guidance.
That was a mistake, Bean said.
"I didn't feel like there was a resource like that for me," he said. "That is going to change for every player, for every coach, umpire, manager, every stake holder. Everyone involved in something like this. They're going to know they have a place to go if they choose to go there. Someone to talk to."
Bean is the second major league player to come out. The first was Burke, who did so in 1982, also after leaving Major League Baseball. Burke played in the majors for four seasons and was with the Dodgers during their run to the World Series in 1977. He also played for the Oakland Athletics.
Burke's sister, Lutha Burke, was on hand for Tuesday's announcement.
"I would like to thank the MLB for honoring my brother in such a fashion that makes my family and myself very proud," she said. "I have no doubt that Glenn would be very happy today."
No active Major League Baseball players have publicly disclosed that they are gay.
MLB officials also announced it will continue its alliance with Athlete Ally, a non-profit organization focused on ending homophobia and transphobia in sports.
Bean's hiring is a significant step forward, Athlete Ally founder and executive director Hudson Taylor said.
"Today's honoring of Glenn Burke's legacy and of his family, the League's hiring of Billy Bean, its announcement of LGBT internships, and this strategic alliance with Athlete Ally, shows that baseball is committed to creating an inclusive culture," Taylor said.