I am fully aware that what I am about to say is rather controversial. Whether you agree with my sentiments or not isn't the point. I was the guy this past election cycle who embraced discussion with people I knew on both ends of the political spectrum. Because what good does blocking out the important issues of the time do? That said, I understand that many of you will vehemently disagree with me on various topics and I will do my best to respect your opinions. Believe me when I say the last thing I want is for this post to devolve into a medium for slander. Capisce?
So, where do we start? Let's go with June 7th, 2014. The 2014 MLB draft began with St. Louis selecting seven pitchers in the first ten rounds. Some of these names from the draft's first two days I'm sure a good number of you are familiar with–Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, Ronnie Williams, Austin Gomber, and Daniel Poncedeleon–but this Day 3 draftee who I'm about to talk about never appeared on the Cardinals' top 30 prospects list. This pitcher never even received a chance to realize his dream of one day reaching the Major Leagues.
That's because baseball's homophobic climate forced Ty Dunnington to abandon the game he loved.
Near the end of the 2014 season, Dunnington was promoted to State College, one step closer to 700 Clark Street. August 31st, 2014, the date of the Spikes' penultimate game. Trey Nielsen departed after five innings, State College trailing 1-0. The Spikes rallied to tie the game in the top of the sixth, and in came Dunnington for his Low-A debut. Two of the first three batters reached to put a pair in scoring position with just one out. Those two hits–a single and double–would be the only Williamsport Crosscutters to record a hit off Dunnington. He worked three scoreless frames with a key strikeout to evade trouble in the sixth and strikeouts to end both the seventh and eighth. The Spikes plated the go-ahead run in the seventh and never looked back.
Spikes 5, Crosscutters 1
WP: Ty Dunnington (1-0, 0.00)
LP: Manny Martinez (1-3, 3.55)
Surely this was a new high point in Ty Dunnington's baseball career, right? But August 31st, not even three full months after the draft, marked the final professional game Dunnington would ever play in. He wrote an email to Outsports, an SB Nation blog dedicated to telling the stories of LGBT athletes.
I experienced both coaches and players make remarks on killing gay people during my time in baseball, and each comment felt like a knife to my heart. I was miserable in a sport that used to give me life, and ultimately I decided I needed to hang up my cleats for my own sanity.
Ty Dunnington was forced to suffer solely because of his sexual orientation. This brings up a major point that I would like to make. Many people considered the Reconstruction Amendments (13-15) sufficient legislation for African Americans, the 19th Amendment an equalizer between men and women, and in modern times the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling to be the final chapter in the push for gay rights. I would argue that all three pushes for equal rights are still ongoing. Because freedom from slavery and Jim Crow segregation, the right to vote, or the right to marry are significant steps, but by no means the steps that make political, economical, and social minorities completely equal.
I don't consider equality, true equality, to be a spectrum. Rather, I consider there to be two states: a state of equality and a state of inequality.
"This is very disappointing...I will certainly look into this further...We will take this very seriously." This is the statement John Mozeliak provided the St. Louis Post-Dispatch when the story initially broke in March of 2016. Since then, we have heard nothing from the team about Ty Dunnington or this incident. No investigation conducted. No policy implemented. No action taken. Nada.
In a broader sense this is why I'm in favor of the Cardinals adding a Pride Night to the 2017 schedule. Not because handing out baseball caps with a rainbow STL emblem will move us to that state of equality, but because baseball has been regarded as a breeding ground for anti-gay sentiment. When Dunnington and other members of the LGBT community express their fears about how others will accept them, creating a night at Busch Stadium in the name of accepting a group of a people who historically have been marginalized for who they are is the right move, the right message for the Cardinals to send.
This isn't the only message the Cardinals are sending, however. The team is essentially welcoming Lance Berkman into Busch Stadium with open arms to be the club's speaker at this year's Christian Day. Berkman, who was quoted as saying, "To me tolerance is the virtue that’s killing this country" and referred to transgender people as "troubled men" in a campaign against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance in 2015.
I need to be very clear. I am in no way opposed to a day at the ballpark focused on any particular religion, Christianity included. One of the replies to the tweet from the official @Cardinals account announcing Pride Night directly mentioned Romans 1:18-32. I understand that homosexuality is considered a sin in the Christian faith.
As someone who is heterosexual and not a very religious person, I consider myself fairly impartial regarding the debate swirling around Pride Night and Christian Day. I don't think the two events are mutually exclusive. I saw a tweet from a Christian yesterday that read, "It is indeed possible to not be in favor of what Pride Night stands for and be okay with it happening".
I am completely okay with the Cardinals hosting a keynote speaker for Christian Day. But for an organization that is trying to bridge the gap between itself and the LGBT community, I disagree with the decision to name Berkman, outspoken in his intolerance and discrimination against people of a different sexual orientation, as that speaker.
The Cardinals can celebrate both gay pride and Christianity, but for that celebration to be successful they need to ensure that both events and their respective personnel are respecting one another.
Thank you for reading!