An openly gay athlete. Jeff Pearlman, a straight sportswriter, is onto something:

Baseball, as you know, represents something that the other major sports do not. It is Americanaa symbol of all that is good and righteous about who we are and what we stand for. It is a warm day in the sun; a beer and a hotdog; red, white, and blue bunting and the national anthem before every first pitch. It’s a beloved blue-eyed, sandy-haired boy chasing down a long fly into the gap.Now what if that beloved blue-eyed, sandy-haired boy happens to be … gay? How will Americansespecially those in the heartlandhandle the juxtaposition? How will they respond? Answer: I’m not sure. It could be horrific. Worse than horrific. That said, Americans have been known to surprise.

Maybe, just maybe, instead of heckles and catcalls, there will be cheers and standing ovations; curtain calls and sellouts. Maybe you will be branded a groundbreaker and a hero; will be referred to as “the Jackie Robinson of gay rights.” Maybe teams that once craved your production might shy away at firstuntil they realize you’re baseball’s biggest draw. Maybe fans will purchase your jerseys in droves. Maybe little boys and girls will sing your name. Maybe parents will urge their offspring to be just like you. Maybe the clubhouse, normally a sanctuary, will serve this role more than ever. Maybe teammates will stand up for your right to be yourself. Maybe your manager will say, “Gay or straight, he’s my guy.” Maybe the team chaplain will thunderously cite John 13:23 (“One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus kept loving, had been sitting very close to him.”) Maybe you will still be invited to dinner; to bars; to family barbeques; to the offseason caravan. Maybe many within the sport will speak of you in the manner Ken Griffey, Jr. spoke of Joe Valentine, a former Reds pitcher who was raised by lesbian parents. “I salute his mothers, and anything negative he’s gone through because of that is garbage,” Griffey said. “I would embrace a gay teammates just like I embrace straight teammates. Some of my closest friends are gay. It makes no difference to me. People are people.”

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