Pitcher Tyler Dunnington was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014, and after pitching well in 19 games in the low minors, walked away from the game. He recently emailed Cyd Zeigler of Outsports to explain that he did so because the homophobia he encountered in clubhouses was too much for him as a gay man. The whole letter is worth reading in full, but this passage in particular will rightly get a lot of attention:
I was also one of the unfortunate closeted gay athletes who experienced years of homophobia in the sport I loved. I was able to take most of it with a grain of salt but towards the end of my career I could tell it was affecting my relationships with people, my performance, and my overall happiness.
I experienced both coaches and players make remarks on killing gay people during my time in baseball, and each comment felt like a knife to my heart. I was miserable in a sport that used to give me life, and ultimately I decided I needed to hang up my cleats for my own sanity.
Dunnington wrote that while he was at Colorado Mesa College, one of his coaches brought up gay people and referenced Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old gay man who was tortured and killed in Wyoming in 1998. According to Dunnington, the coach referenced Shepard’s death and said, “We kill gay people in Wyoming.”
When Dunnington went to the Gulf Coast League Cardinals in 2014 after being drafted, he overheard comments similar to the ones he’d heard at Colorado Mesa:
One teammate mentioned that he has a gay brother. While there was some supportive talk, two teammates in particular questioned their straight teammate on how he could possibly be friends with a gay person, even his brother. They even mentioned ways to kill gay people.
Dunnington’s playing career is over, but he aspires to find a front-office job in baseball.