Former umpire Dave Pallone knows all too well the journey of Dale Scott

Maybe, your child or mine. Maybe, the young man down the block or the teenaged girl who served your coffee this morning. Maybe, as the former umpire Dave Pallone said Tuesday morning, someone out in a tough world who is suffering, be they 15 years old or 20 or his own 63, “Who still feels they’re all by themselves.”

Dale Scott has been a major league umpire for nearly three decades. (AP)
Dale Scott has been a major league umpire for nearly three decades. (AP)

“What most people don’t realize is Dale Scott today probably will save the life of one person,” Pallone said. “And he will never know who that person is. … It’s wonderful.”

Scott, 55, a major league umpire for nearly three decades, came out as gay on Tuesday via Outsports.com. He is married to a man named Michael.

Twenty-six years after the retired Pallone declared the same and, he said, lost his job for it, Scott, a crew chief, is the first active umpire to come out. And he’ll have an opening day assignment. Fellow umpires were aware of his sexual orientation, Scott told the magazine. Players contacted Tuesday said they knew as well.

Several of the players said that for years now Scott has carried a reputation inside the sport, and it is this: Good man to work a game with, strong personality, even temperament, does his best to get it right, all in all an exceedingly competent umpire.

And, well, that’s it.

Scott does his job. Everybody else does theirs. There’s a nice lesson of tolerance, if that’s what we’re still calling it in the waning days of 2014, there.

“I am extremely grateful,” he told Outsports, “that Major League Baseball has always judged me on my work and nothing else.”

So, good for baseball, which in July appointed its own Ambassador for Inclusion (Billy Bean, who came out in 1999), and good for the men in baseball, who comported themselves as reasonable human beings. If it seems odd we might have assumed otherwise, or that this today is news, or that we must feel Scott has made a courageous decision for the rest of his life, then perhaps our expectations trail the times. We fear the worst. We are warmed, so far, by the reality and the good it will do. For Scott, for others, it’s gotten better, perhaps. Since Jason Collins and Michael Sam, since Pallone, and since Pallone’s personal hero, Martina Navratilova, maybe it’s gotten a little better.

“I always will remember where I came from,” Pallone said. “How difficult it was for me. How horrible it was.”

It’s why he believes so strongly Scott is being generous by telling his story, because of who is still out there and what they may need. See, Scott is a large, powerful man who, we learned, stands with an entire industry behind him. Enough of the industry, anyway. He can aid the weaker. He also stands before the public, before tens of thousands of people on many nights, often alone. He can embolden the fearful.

Dave Pallone prepares for a game during the 1985 season. (Getty)
Dave Pallone prepares for a game during the 1985 season. (Getty)

It does not come without a price. While umpires are targets anyway – “Just like I said to [commissioner] Bart Giamatti back in 1988, it’s no different,” Pallone said. “They would call me a f----- even if they didn’t know.” – now, perhaps, it gets personal. Really personal.

“As an umpire, he probably knows he has the guts to be hated,” Pallone said. “But he’s going to find out how much hate there really is out there. He’s going to find out there’s some horrible people out there. I hope that’s not everywhere he goes, but there will always be bigots. We have to deal with that.”

And folks may wonder why Dale Scott waited until he was 55, when that awaits.

Personally, I was charmed by the story on Outsports. Scott – I know the work, but not the man – came off as proud of who he is, secure in what’s next. He would not trumpet his orientation – Outsports picked up on a photo that ran with an October piece in Referee magazine – and neither would he hide it. He was – is – merely living it. And we can hope we’re getting closer to a day when his choice would not be worth pondering, asking about, or becoming news.

As he told Outsports, “The first 10 years of my major league umpire career, I would have been horrified if a story had come out that I was gay.”

So, we cheer for Scott. We are pleased for the system. And, most of all, we have a little more hope for those who aren’t sure the world is ready for them, will accept them, will appreciate them. Scott may indeed save a life. He may already have.

For, at 19, he said, he realized who he was, and “I wasn’t going to look at myself every day for the rest of my life and lie. That to me would be a miserable existence.”

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