Baseball reacts to NBA player Jason Collins coming out of the closet

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

Jason Giambi, very much the wise old guy in the Cleveland Indians clubhouse these days, thinks baseball is ready for its Jason Collins.

Collins, an NBA veteran, came out on Monday, becoming the first openly gay player in the United States' three major team sports. It's a move that many believe will alter the landscape of sports, as Collins becomes a trailblazer for gay athletes.

"I applaud him," Giambi said Monday, according to Jordan Bastian of "There's a place for a gay baseball player. I know this is a good ol' boys game but it's definitely changed. Society has changed. People have opened themselves up more to it."

Collins' announcement transcends sports and leagues. It doesn't matter to Major League Baseball as much as it matters to the National Basketball Association, but make no mistake, it does matter.

As you can imagine, players and managers were asked their opinions about Collins and how baseball would react. And there wasn't a Mike Wallace moment — at least not yet. The people who spoke up had words of encouragement for Collins and for their own potentially "out" teammates.

“Obviously it’s a different sport, (but) if you can play the game I don’t care about the color of your skin, sexual orientation, religion,” New York Mets star David Wright told the The Star-Ledger. “If you can play the game, come on in. you’re welcome. All that matters to me is you go out there and you can compete ... Hopefully this allows individuals to express themselves. I don’t pass any judgment on anyone expect for when you play come out here, play on a team and play winning baseball. If you can do that, a teammate is a teammate.”

A pair of respected managers — Joe Girardi of the New York Yankees and Bob Melvin of the Oakland Athletics — each spoke about being inclusive to all types of players.

Here's Girardi, via ESPN New York:

"As far as myself personally, I believe as men and women we're called to love others [regardless of] their race, their religion, their thought process, whatever they do. We're not called to judge. I think part of judging people is probably what gets us in a lot of trouble in the world. As far as me personally, he's a player, he's a man. My job is to be his friend and love him. If I was his manager, it's to get the most out of him. If I was a player, I always felt it was as a player to be the best teammate that I could be. That's the bottom line."

And here's Melvin, from Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle:

"A person is a person to me. If (a gay player) is a good person and a good baseball player, we'd welcome him ... We welcome all kinds here and embrace that as an organization."

Here are a few tweets from the baseball world aimed at Collins, including one team offering to let him throw out the first pitch:

While this sounds Utopian, we all know these views aren't 100% universal in MLB clubhouses, just like they're not universal in our everyday lives. There are people who have been and who will continue to be uncomfortable with the idea of homosexuality.

Jason Collins and his story isn't going to change that. Not in one day at least. If we've learned anything from the life of Jackie Robinson, it's that acceptance and tolerance take time.

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