WASHINGTON (AP) — Billy Bean, a gay former player and Major League Baseball’s first ambassador of inclusion, expressed hope Tuesday night after spending the last two days mourning the mass shooting in Orlando.
Bean was at the park as the Nationals hosted their 12th annual Night OUT event during a nationally televised game against the Chicago Cubs. Bean was scheduled to visit with members of the Nationals even before the attack at an Orlando nightclub, which left 49 dead.
“Everyone’s heart in baseball was broken on Sunday morning,” Bean said. “It doesn’t matter who it happened to. It was a terrible, terrible event in our U.S. history.”
Still, Bean carried an optimistic message, inspired by his own experiences and by what he saw beyond the outfield wall at Nationals Park.
“I turned around and I saw … the (gay) pride flag underneath the American flag,” Bean said. “That’s an image — that’s a new image. That is a powerful one for the LGBT community and one I want to make sure we’re all appreciative of.”
Bean retired in 1995 after six seasons in the majors and came out in 1999. His primary duties with MLB are to spread a message of inclusion. He began in his current role in 2014 and speaks with players and coaches at the major and minor league levels.
“Baseball has a zero tolerance policy for harassment or discrimination based on your race, your color, your religion, your gender, your national origin or your sexual orientation,” he said. “I think it’s a very powerful, strong message and one I’m willing to talk about every single day.”
The message became even more poignant following the shooting in Orlando.
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