Minor league baseball player Bryan Ruby has become the only currently active pro baseball player to come out as gay.
Ruby, 25, who is a member of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in Oregon as well as a country music songwriter, came out publicly in an interview with USA Today. “I kept thinking about the little 14-year-old me, who was scared because I'm a baseball player who loved country music,” he said. “Those are worlds where people like me are told they can’t belong. I’m not a hot-shot prospect. But today, you can’t find a single active baseball player who is out publicly. 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.”
Ruby came out to his family and friends four years ago and then to his teammates this summer. He has found acceptance. Volcanoes catcher Gabriel Cotto, among the supportive teammates, had a personal connection. “I grew up with two dads and we were just like a regular family,” Cotto said. “But I used to get bullied and in fights growing up because my pops is gay. When Ruby told me, I just had so much respect for him. It made our friendship closer.”
Other minor leaguers have come out while active, such as David Denson, who was with a Milwaukee Brewers farm club, and Sean Conroy, a pitcher with the independent Sonoma Stompers in California, both of whom came out in 2015. Both have now left pro ball.
Among major leaguers, Glenn Burke, who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A’s in the 1970s, was out to teammates but not the public. Billy Bean, who played for the Tigers, Dodgers, and Padres over a career that spanned from 1987 to 1995, came out after retiring and is now Major League Baseball’s ambassador for inclusion. So far no major leaguer has come out publicly while active.
Bean has now become a mentor and friend to Ruby and given him a pair of shoes that Ruby wears in every game. Ruby wrote to him in 2018 and got a response letter, which he framed.
“I didn’t even put my last name or address,” Ruby said. “He’s someone who sits right next to the MLB commissioner and he has my back. I’ve worn his cleats everywhere I’ve played — on three different continents. I look down at them, and know I have support.”
Bean praised Ruby to USA Today. “The beauty of it for Bryan is that he's not playing to only become a big leaguer,” Bean said. “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.”
The Volcanoes were affiliated with the San Francisco Giants from 1997 to 2020, but are not connected with any MLB team now. The team is part of the Mavericks Independent League with three other teams in and around Salem.