Minor league baseball player Bryan Ruby has come out as gay. The announcement makes him the only currently active pro baseball player to have done so.
Ruby, who is 25 and plays for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in Oregon, said he first realized he was different at age 14. But the baseballer, who also writes country music, says he saw no place for his sexual orientation in the worlds he inhabited.
“Being closeted for basically 10 years, it was a struggle the whole time,” Ruby said in a new interview with USA Today. “I used to hate myself. Hate how I felt. I’d ask, ‘Why am I feeling this way?’”
Ruby came out to his family about four years ago. Then he gradually told close friends. And just this summer he came out to his teammates.
“I kept having people tell me, ‘Be very cautious of who you tell’ or ‘They don’t need to know your personal life,’” said Ruby. “The best way to describe the hiding as an athlete is like you’re running with a weighted vest on. It’s on all day and you can’t take it off. I’ve been gradually taking that weight off.”
Ruby is not the first minor league player to out himself while playing. According to The Advocate that distinction is said to go to David Denson of the Milwaukee Brewers or Sean Conroy. Both players came out in 2015 and both have since retired from the game.
In the Major Leagues, Billy Bean, who in his eight-year career played for the Tigers, the Dodgers and the Padres, came out after he retired. He is now Major League Baseball’s ambassador for inclusion. To date, no Major League player has publicly come out while playing.
“The beauty of it for Bryan is that he’s not playing to only become a big leaguer,” Bean, who has been a mentor to Ruby, told USA Today in the same story. “He’s playing because he loves the game. I imagine he’ll be proud of himself when he’s 40 years old in his country music career knowing what he’s doing for baseball. I couldn’t be prouder, and I definitely think Bryan’s story is a stepping stone in the right direction.”
For his part, Ruby said his coming out is largely about inspiring the next generation.
He says, “I want to help create a world where future generations of baseball players don’t have to sacrifice authenticity or who they really are to play the game they love.”