Baseball history was made in Northern California last night when the sport's first active professional player to come out as gay pitched a shutout before an enthusiastic crowd that seemed more impressed with his performance than his role as a pioneer. Sean Conroy, 23, led the Sonoma Stompers to a 7-0 victory during his first start with the 22-man team that's part of the independent Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs. The right-hander struck out 11 players and allowed three hits over nine innings. The Stompers didn't make a special announcement or call attention to the milestone so Conroy could focus on his pitching, General Manager Theo Fightmaster says, but when the starting lineup was announced, Conroy got the loudest cheer.
"He wanted to be that guy, and coming out here and doing this shows you what kind of man he is," the team's radio broadcaster said after a ground ball ended the game and Conroy's teammates jogged over to hug him. "To see this little field here in the middle of nowhere, when we look back it will have been the perfect setting for this." Fightmaster says Conroy privately shared his sexual orientation with teammates and management before agreeing to come out publicly in time for the team's home-field gay pride night. MLB historian John Thorn confirmed that Conroy is the first active professional to come out as gay. Glenn Burke, an outfielder for the A's and Dodgers, and Billy Bean, a utility player with the Tigers, Dodgers, and Padres, came out after they retired. (Read more baseball stories.)