St. Louis Cardinals minor league pitcher Tyler Dunnington quit the team after receiving homophobic comments for being gay.
Dunnington was a minor league baseball player which involved shuttling around minor cities on a bus, earning minor paychecks, and waiting for a shot at the Majors.
Dunnington kept his sexuality secret during his 2014 season with the St. Louis Cardinals’ Gulf Coast League. At that time, no professional baseball player had ever publicly come out.
During his time as a high school and college star, Dunnington had endured plenty of homophobia; however, one locker room conversation convinced him to quit the team.
According to OutSports.com, when a Cardinals teammate mentioned his brother was gay, two other players asked him how he could possibly be friends with a gay person, even his brother. The two players then mentioned ways to kill gay people.
On Wednesday, OutSports published an email from Dunnington in which he said the homophobia drove him to give up the game he loved.
“I was also one of the unfortunate closeted gay athletes who experienced years of homophobia in the sport I loved,” Dunnington wrote.
Dunnington continued, “I was able to take most of it with a grain of salt but towards the end of my career I could tell it was affecting my relationships with people, my performance, and my overall happiness.”
“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,” Dunnington said.
“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.”
The Cardinals said they are taking their former pitcher’s claim that he quit baseball over anti-gay comments “very seriously.”
“This is very disappointing and our hope is that every player, staff member and employee feels that they are treated equally and fairly,” Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak said.
Mozeliak continued, “Given the nature of these allegations, I will certainly look into this further.”
Dunnington’s experience arguably shows how far the game still has to go.
In Dunnington’s email to OutSports, however, the former minor league pitcher expressed regret for leaving the game, and for not coming out while still playing.
“After a little over a year of being gone from the game I’ve come to realize I thought I was choosing happiness over being miserable. That is not necessarily the case,” Dunnington wrote.
“My passion still lies in baseball, and removing myself from the game didn’t change that. Most of the greatest memories I have are with this sport. After gaining acceptance from my friends and family I realized I didn’t have to quit baseball to find happiness.”
“I not only wanted to share my story but also apologize for not using the stage I had to help change the game,” he added. “Quitting isn’t the way to handle adversity, and I admire the other athletes acting as trailblazers.”
Dunnington is now hoping to return to baseball by joining a team’s front office.
“Our athletic department strives to make sure all our athletes are equally treated with respect. That’s our policy,” L&C Athletics Administrative Assistant Dionne McElroy said.
For more information visit washingtonpost.com or outsports.com.