On Thursday, former Padres, Dodgers, and Tigers player and MLB Ambassador for Inclusion Billy Bean spoke to Athletics players and coaches at the invitation of Athletics general manager Billy Beane. Bean's goal: "[T]o try to create a culture of acceptance and let these guys know that that's part of the responsibility that goes with this awesome sport," he told MLB.com's Jane Lee.
To that end, the A's will be hosting their first Pride Night on June 17, a Wednesday night game against the San Diego Padres:
Those purchasing a special ticket to the event, which will be $30 plus the assorted ticketing fees, will receive the pictured A's Pride wristbands and sit in Field Level sections 129 and 130. A portion of the proceeds will benefit AIDS Project East Bay and Frameline, a non-profit supporting the LGBTQ media arts. The game festivities will include a tribute to the life of Glenn Burke, the first MLB player to come out publicly and Athletic in 1978 and 1979, and a first pitch by a member of the Burke family.
As this is the first year the A's are holding the event, the club is expecting several hundred people to participate, according to A's Media Relations Coordinator Zak Basch, responding to my email inquiry.
Basch added that the A's are holding Pride Night because, "(1) It is the right thing to do, (2) we have seen interest from our fan base for a Pride Night, and (3) it is an opportunity to honor the memory of former Athletic and first openly gay MLB player Glenn Burke." The club hopes for success so that Pride Night can be an annual event.
As of last August, "At least 18 of the 30 major league teams have hosted gay-themed events over the years, according to Major League Baseball and published accounts," writes Billy Witz for the New York Times.
Why Pride Nights are a good thing
LGBTQ people already attend A's games as part of the A's community just as persons with Filipino, Italian, Jewish, Korean, or Portuguese heritage do, and just as persons sharing the Christian faith do. Group nights the A's host, like the heritage nights for those communities, as well as Faith and Family Day, are an important opportunity for the team to celebrate and bring together the cultures that collectively make up Oakland's fan base.
Every time an American sports team sponsors a Pride Night, however, there are elements of people that want to make these events a bigger thing than they are. "What about the people who simply love baseball who don't want to be inundated with sexual s***?" asks one twitter user in reply to the A's tweet advertising the event. To whom I reply, don't watch pornography while attending a baseball game, weirdo. There were a few other comments of that ilk, but otherwise the replies were overwhelmingly supportive of the evening.
When the White Sox hosted Out at the Sox last August, they faced similar statements, even going so far as to threaten to boycott the team. After the evening was a big success, Chicago director Sam Ciarmitaro produced a short film titled "Take Me OUT to the Ballpark," which featured five White Sox fans, including the son of the late White Sox outfielder Minnie Minoso:
There is no political statement being made here, unless you consider the idea of welcoming a community that has asked for an opportunity to sit together and enjoy a baseball game a political statement. If you already have a ticket but cannot stand the idea of going to a game when several hundred of your fellow fans are members or allies of the LGBTQ community, then
I cannot help you Sean Doolittle's girlfriend Eireann Dolan will gladly buy your ticket and donate it to the Bay Area Youth Center's Our Space community for LGBTQ youth.
I will proudly sit with my community on June 17 in section 129. I hope you will join me at the Coliseum.