Is San Diego Ready?

On Monday, Nate took a look at the Michael Sam news and wondered when the time would come for baseball to welcome its first openly gay player. Nate finished with this:

Maybe it will be a member of the Padres. You never know. Why not?

The factors that would go into the decision to be the first openly gay player in your professional sport seem innumerable – but the scenario got me thinking nonetheless. Why not the Padres?

Why not the Padres?

Would the city of San Diego itself be a welcoming place for a trailblazer?

San Diego leans conservative as a whole but voting patterns from Proposition 8 in 2008 show that there were many communities against the banning of same sex marriages. Beach communities like Ocean Beach, Del Mar, and La Jolla as well as communities closer to downtown San Diego like Hillcrest, North Park, and South Park all voted overwhelmingly against Prop 8. Other communities that turned out high “No” votes were in the college areas like UCSD (79%) and SDSU (73%). These patterns show a level of acceptance within the varied communities of San Diego which could factor into a player’s decision to come out.

Would the Padres team have the right composition of players to accept an openly gay teammate?

The composition of the Padres locker room is kind of impossible to answer since we’re not in it – but allow me to speculate for a moment. If we were to examine the voting patterns of college students from the 2008 Prop 8 initiative we see that these voters are a little more liberal and accepting of alternative lifestyles. Intuitively this makes sense as a college campus is a pretty big melting pot of diversity. So perhaps a team laden with former college players could aid the transition of an openly gay player. Let’s see how the Padres 40-Man Roster stacks up:

Andrew Cashner (TCU), Jesse Hahn (Va Tech), Ian Kennedy (USC), Cory Luebke (Ohio State), Donn Roach (Arizona/College of Southern Nevada), Tyson Ross (UC- Berkeley), Burch Smith (Oklahoma), Tim Stauffer (Richmond), Huston Street (Texas), Eric Stults (Bethel College), Dale Thayer (CSU Chico), Nick Vincent (CSU Long Beach), Yasmani Grandal (Miami), Nick Hundley (Arizona), Yonder Alonso (Miami), Jedd Gyorko (West Virginia), Chase Headley (Pacific/Tennessee), Ryan Jackson (Miami), Tommy Medica (Santa Clara), Chris Denorfia (Wheaton College), Carlos Quentin (Stanford), Seth Smith (Mississippi), and  Will Venable (Princeton).

That’s 23 out of 40 players who spent time in college, or 58% of the Padres’ 40-Man roster. Regardless of college experience the entire roster seems like a genuinely good group of guys – but like I said, we’re not in the locker room. We don’t know.

Would an openly gay player find himself crushed under the intense scrutiny of San Diego’s media?

Is there a more mellow sports media vibe in the country than the one here in San Diego? While the city of Chicago has four daily newspapers America’s Finest City is down to one – a media circus would initially pop up on the road but for 81 games a year San Diego wouldn’t be a bad place for MLB’s first openly gay player.

This is all speculation, none of which really matters unless a gay player choose to come out like Michael Sam did last week. Regardless of the date certain it seems evident that the day will come sooner than later and when it does baseball players will do what all humans do during moments of change – they will adapt.

***

I contribute to Padres Public on Thursday mornings and when I’m feeling particularly outraged by the location of statues around Petco Park. I can also be found on twitter at @AvengingJM. The dusty archives of AJM are located at avengingjm.blogspot.com

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  • USMC53

    It’s interesting to look at the colleges our players went to, because they are so diverse in terms of geography and, I am assuming, general political leanings. I’m guessing that Berkeley and Princeton are quite liberal, while places like Ole Miss and Wheaton (which I believe is very religious) are considerably more conservative. Quite a melting pot within our own clubhouse. I’m guessing that if you walked into the clubhouse and asked for the guys’ opinions on this question, you’d get a lot of different viewpoints and some really interesting discussion. I’d pay to be a fly on the wall for a discussion like that.

  • USMC53

    Like you said, people adapt. My Marine Corps squadron had never had a woman pilot until 2001. When our first woman pilot was about to check in, there were of course a lot of guys who said it was a bad idea, that it would change the culture of the Ready Room, that it wouldn’t work, etc. etc. Our Commanding Officer (a total stud, guy’s guy who had been in the Corps since the late 70s or early 80s) called us all into the Ready Room and basically said, “You boys can think what you want, but once she walks in that door, she’s on the team. And some of you are going to have to deal with it when she turns out to be a better pilot than you.” She checked in, was an awesome officer and pilot, and a huge part of the team that we went to war with. Everyone loved her (and still does). If a bunch of Marines can wise up and move forward with the times, I’m sure athletes can, too.

    • Geoff Young

      Awesome. Thanks for sharing this story.

      • USMC53

        This got me thinking about some of funny stories from back in those days. One is that one day, our CO was pissed at all of the officers in the squadron for some reason (I can’t remember what… general substandard performance of one kind or another), and he pulled us all together and reamed us out and told us to get our acts together. He finished up by saying, “I’ll tell you this… if you don’t get your $%&# together, I’m going to crush your nuts!” Then he paused for a second and looked over at our lone woman officer and said, “Not you, Lieutenant!” She must have been like, “Gee thanks, what a relief.”

  • Change the Padres

    I think the San Diego public at-large would support this – the team, fans, and print media too. But that Scott Kaplan guy? (Groan)

    • Did he say that he wouldn’t, CtP?

      • Change the Padres

        His show has been UGLY over the past week. I don’t believe he’s said that exactly, but he’s said many anti-gay things in the past week – more of the ‘I’m so sick of gay’ sort of ‘let’s not talk about this because I disagree with it or will say something I will regret’ variety. He also said he would have broken into Ed Reed’s car, too, if he was $50 grand lying around.

        I don’t have any faith in his ability to preach acceptance if a Padres player came out. But Scott Kaplan should never stop anyone from doing anything.

        EDIT: I only listen because of my commute coinciding with his show and because 570 is static in my vehicle.

      • One word: Podcasts

  • GoldenBoy

    As an organization, I think the Padres would definitely be ready to sign an openly gay player. We have a unique history with this, with former Padre Billy Bean to be the first baseball player to come out, albeit it was after his career was over. Billy Bean seems like an awesome dude, and by all accounts, he has been mostly supported by his former teammates.

    http://lgbtweekly.com/2013/03/28/billy-bean-padres-hero-returns-to-san-diego-for-out-at-the-park/

  • Beau Gray

    If he can play and deserves to be on the Padres, WHO CARES what his sexual preference is…it’s about the love of the GAME.

    I also so think you aren’t a bigot just because you voted yes on Prop 8. Here is my problem with the media gotcha game and this issue. They will immediately go to the Christians on the Padres. When the Christian players say we welcome the gay player onto the team with open arms, the media then will ask them about their personal views on gay marriage or their religious beliefs (as if it is any of their business). Once a Christian player says he disagrees with gay marriage because of religious beliefs, the media will then pounce and cause a circus.

    Regardless of the team, or media market, this will happen. Hence, there won’t be any problems on the field or in the clubhouse, but the media will portray said Christian player as closed minded and bigoted. That’s the unfortunate narrative. It sucks, because we all shouldn’t care about religion or sexual preference in baseball, we should all just care about the game. As for me, my answer remains WHO CARES and if a gay player emerges on the Padres, I will root for him no matter what, because I am a fan of the team, who ever puts on that uniform.