Telling USA Today Sports, “It’s about damn time for this,” Bryan Ruby becomes the only active pro baseball player to be out as gay.
Ruby says he knew at the age of 14 that he was somehow ‘different.’ So he sought out activities where other parts of his life could not only express themselves but thrive.
First, as a professional baseball player with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, a minor league team in the Mavericks Independent Baseball League. While admitting he’s “not a hot-shot prospect,” Ruby acknowledged “you can’t find a single active baseball player who is out publicly.”
But coming out today is his attempt to help “future generations of baseball players don’t have to sacrifice authenticity or who they really are to play the game they love.”
— Scott Gleeson (@ScottMGleeson) September 2, 2021
In addition to baseball, Ruby has found solace and success as a country music songwriter.
Penning tunes for country singers in Nashville, like out recording artist Hayden Joseph, Ruby has already seen two of his songs hit the charts.
Ruby, soon to be showcased in the upcoming documentary, “Out in Nashville,” says initially he thought being gay would be a huge weakness in the Nashville music scene.
Although he couldn’t relate to the “bro-country” genre of country music which focuses on drinking beer and hooking up with girls in the back of the truck, Ruby realized he could bring something different to the table. “Love songs don’t need to be gay or straight. And I’ve been able to write my best songs by being authentic.”
“I kept thinking about the little 14-year-old me, who was scared because I’m a baseball player who loved country music,” the 25-year-old told USA TODAY Sports. “Those are worlds where people like me are told they can’t belong.”
He tells Scott Gleeson of USA Today:
“Being closeted for basically 10 years, it was a struggle the whole time. I used to hate myself. Hate how I felt. I’d ask why am I feeling this way?”
“I kept having people tell me, ‘Be very cautious of who you tell’ or ‘They don’t need to know your personal life.’ The best way to describe the hiding as an athlete is like you’re running with a weighted vest on. It’s on all day and you can’t take it off. I’ve been gradually taking that weight off.”
Ruby shared his secret with family and close friends four years ago. This summer, he took the next step in telling his teammates.
Today, coming out publicly is the last step in revealing his authentic self. Although, Ruby says, “I don’t like the connotation to, ‘coming out.’ Because it’s more like ‘inviting in.'”
Volcanoes catcher Gabriel Cotto told USA Today Sports he has personal insight to his teammate’s journey. “I grew up with two dads and we were just like a regular family,” Cotto said. “But I used to get bullied and in fights growing up because my pops is gay. When Ruby told me, I just had so much respect for him. It made our friendship closer.”
Three years ago, Ruby wrote to former pro baseball player Billy Bean, who played Major League Baseball from 1987 to 1995. After retiring, Bean came out and is currently Major League Baseball’s ambassador for inclusion. To date no major leaguer has come out publicly while active.
Bean wrote back (Ruby framed the letter), and has since become a mentor to the young athlete. Bean also gave Ruby a pair of shoes that he wears in every game.
“He’s someone who sits right next to the MLB commissioner and he has my back,” says Ruby. “I’ve worn his cleats everywhere I’ve played — on three different continents. I look down at them, and know I have support.”
🗣 "If I can help just one person from this, then that’s greater than any single hit or home run or win that I ever get on the field” – Bryan Ruby, @SKVolcanoes ⚾️🌈👏
— Sports Media LGBT+ (@SportsMediaLGBT) September 2, 2021
“The beauty of it for Bryan is that he’s not playing to only become a big leaguer,” Bean told USA Today Sports. “He’s playing because he loves the game. I imagine he’ll be proud of himself when he’s 40 years old in his country music career knowing what he’s doing for baseball. I couldn’t be prouder, and I definitely think Bryan’s story is a stepping stone in the right direction.”
Pro soccer player Robbie Rogers came out in February 2013 and retired in the same announcement. But three months later, he returned to Major League Soccer playing for the LA Galaxy.
Jason Collins came out as gay after the 2012/2013 NBA season. In February 2014, he became the second out athlete to play in a major sports league when he signed with the Brooklyn Nets.
“Each time somebody comes out in industries where queer people have not been historically represented in the mainstream, it helps to crumble the myth that you can’t be yourself,” says Ruby. “But we’re in the 2020s. It’s about damn time for this.”
“If I can help just one person from this,” he adds, “then that’s greater than any single hit or home run or win that I ever get on the field.”
Inspired by Carl Nassib and Luke Prokop, professional baseball player Bryan Ruby wants to help those who may not feel comfortable coming out.@ScottMGleeson tells Ruby's story. https://t.co/8sAZ07QUzL pic.twitter.com/P9SVUwIYhe
— USA TODAY Sports (@usatodaysports) September 2, 2021