David Denson, a first baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers’ rookie affiliate in Helena, Montana, made baseball history this weekend by revealing that he is gay.
Denson, 20, publicly disclosed the news in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article after sharing it with his family and Helena Brewers teammates. The news makes Denson the first active player affiliated with a Major League organization to come out publicly.
“Talking with my teammates, they gave me the confidence I needed, coming out to them,” Denson told sports writer Tom Haudricourt.
“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.'”
Denson, who is batting .245 with four home runs and 18 RBIs in 42 games for Helena, is the Brewers’ 27th-ranked prospect, according to MLB.com. He was selected by the Brewers in the 15th round of the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft out of South Hills High School in West Covina, California.
A handful of retired pro athletes have come out in recent years, including retired major leaguer Billy Bean. Since retiring from professional baseball in 1995, Bean has spoken frequently about the pressure gay athletes face to conceal their sexuality. As Major League Baseball’s first Ambassador for Inclusion, Bean counseled Denson on his decision to reveal he is gay.
“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,” Bean told the Journal Sentinel.
“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 told the Journal Sentinel that he has concealed his sexuality since the Brewers selected him in 2013. The secret began to weigh on him as spring training began in 2015.
“It became a depression level,” he told the paper. “I wasn’t being myself. It was visible in my body language. I didn’t know if I should still stay in the sport.”
Denson is not doing this for the publicity, Bean said. “David is very humble. It’s really about being his best self. He’s a great baseball player, but he needs to be his best self to get to the big leagues.”
Many in the sports world voiced support for Denson, including the Brewers’ leadership.
“David is a highly respected member of the Milwaukee Brewers family, and he is a very courageous young man,” Milwaukee Brewers President Doug Melvin said in a statement. “Our goal for David is to help develop him into a Major League player, just as it is for any player in our system, and we will continue to support him in every way as he chases that dream.”
“May David Denson be judged solely on his baseball ability. Wish him both support and success,” WTMJ Milwaukee sports anchor Doug Russell said.
Denson’s Helena teammates also offered support.
“Proud of my teammate David Denson. Extremely brave guy. Much respect for him!” Helena Brewers outfielder Troy Stokes said.
“Sexuality does not dictate ones ability to play the game of baseball or be a good teammate. Nothing but support for our brother David Denson,” catcher Mitch Ghelfi said.
“Proud of my teammate and brother David Denson for coming out and being himself, ton of respect for him as a player and person,” catcher Charles Galiano said.