Brewers: Minor-leaguer David Denson comes out, sun still rises


It was significant, I suppose, in the sense that he was the first to do it.

Milwaukee Brewers farmhand David Denson came out in a story published Saturday by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as the first openly gay player in affiliated professional baseball.

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There are those out there who will see this announcement as the continued erosion of truth, justice and the American way and if that’s your thing, you’re entitled to your opinion.

Personally, I feel the same way about homosexuality as I do the consumption of Brussels sprouts—so long as it’s not mandatory, I really couldn’t care less.

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I am much more interested, as a fan of the Brewers, of Denson’s on-field performance than his behavior off it, so long as said behavior isn’t of the violating-the-law variety we see from some athletes, regardless of sport, race, color, creed, religion or sexual orientation.

Denson said the reaction from teammates has been supportive.

“Talking with my teammates, they gave me the confidence I needed, coming out to them,” Denson said. “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.’

“That was a giant relief for me,” Denson said. “I never wanted to feel like I was forcing it on them. It just happened. The outcome was amazing. It was nice to know my teammates see me for who I am, not my sexuality.”

Former major-leaguer Billy Bean—not to be confused with former major-leaguer Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics—was named last year as MLB’s Ambassador for Inclusion, worked with Denson in the process of publicly coming out.

Bean, who played parts of six seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres in the 1980s and 1990s, came out as a homosexual after his career was over.

“(Denson) is definitely cognizant of how it might affect his team,” Bean said. “I just wanted to make sure his parents were part of the conversation. David has two loving parents who obviously are very concerned. They’re worries about how this will affect him.

“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.

“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 was a 15th-round pick by the Brewers in the 2013 amateur draft out of South Hills High School in West Covina, Calif., and is in his third season in the organization.

He is a massive 6-foot-3, 254-pound first baseman/corner outfielder who has struggled to find himself at the plate thus far in his career.

This season, the 20-year-old started the year at Class-A Wisconsin, where he hit .195/.264/.305 in 24 games with a homer and eight RBI.

He is currently at Rookie-level Helena, where he has hit .247/.339/.390 in 43 games with 10 doubles, four home runs and 18 RBI.

Denson is not considered an elite prospect, but his power earned him a look. During a prep baseball showcase at Marlins Park in Miami prior to the 2013 draft, he had scouts buzzing with a 515-foot blast.

He said he’s not seeking publicity. Rather, he’s just trying to give himself a chance to play up to his potential by not having to wrestle with the stress of keeping secrets.

“It started to affect my game because I was so caught up in trying to hide it,” Denson said. “I was so concerned about how they would feel. I was pushing my feelings aside.

“Finally, I came to terms with this is who I am and not everybody is going to accept it. Once you do that, it’s a blessing in itself.”

He was named to the Pioneer League All-Star Game, hitting a home run and earning MVP honors.

Wrapped in Denson’s last quote is the key to the whole thing—not everybody is going to accept it and I’m not going to climb atop a soapbox and say judgmental things in order to shame anyone into doing so.

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  • But if coming out helps Denson reach his potential as a baseball player and he winds up helping Milwaukee with his home-run power somewhere down the road, I’m not going to care one way or another what he does off the field.

    It’s the one big fallacy that pervades the thinking of fans—that somehow we know who these people are because we watch them play ball.

    I covered an NFL team for almost four years in the 1990s. If I said I “knew” any of those players beyond the professional relationship I had with them, I’d be lying through my teeth.

    Did I know whether any of them was gay? No. Would it shock me to learn there might have been homosexual players on the team? No.

    Simple mathematics says they are out there. David Denson just confirmed the equation, he didn’t change it.

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