NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball made history on Sunday afternoon, participating in the 49th annual Pride March in New York for the first time.
Billy Bean -- MLB's vice president and special assistant to the Commissioner, who was appointed the league's first Ambassador for Inclusion in 2014 -- said that MLB's LGBT and allies group reached out to NYC Pride after some of the company's employees volunteered for last year's parade.
From there, Dan Halem (deputy commissioner, baseball administration and chief legal officer) and Renee Tirado (vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer) worked hard to assure that MLB would be represented with a float in 2018.
"They felt that the diversity outreach was significant enough to be inclusive for everybody," Bean said. "Dan Halem seeing the big picture and how important MLB's message is to all of our fans, all of New York, all around the country, to our 30 clubs, is how change happens. Today was visionary, in my opinion."
Approximately 175 eager employees of the Office of the Commissioner, MLB Network and MLB.com accepted an invitation to march.
"It's just an indescribable feeling," Bean said. "We've come so far so quickly. A lot of people are really determined and dedicated to continuing to grow an inclusive and accepting workplace in MLB and throughout baseball. ... I think a lot of people are going to learn something about the beauty of what this day represents. It's just about unity. It's not political or specific in every context. It's about people reaching out and giving a giant hug to all the wonderful diversity that makes up the great city of New York."
Participants from Major League Baseball arrived on Sunday afternoon wearing T-shirts sporting a rainbow-striped MLB logo on the front and "#MLBPRIDE 18" on the back, as well as matching hats.
"It's about freedom," said one of the event's group leaders, Samantha Jaffee. "It's about making sure every culture and group is represented, and all about equality and rights for humans."
MLB volunteers waved and threw soft "MLB Pride" baseballs to the crowd, while the remainder walked alongside the float, which was covered in sheets of green, ruffled plastic that resembled outfield grass. A DJ riding on the back kept everyone entertained during the two-hour trek through the city.
"I think it's really important for our organization to show the world how inclusive we are," MLB data engineer Mary Burford said. "I would have come anyway, but I'm so proud to be among all of my coworkers."
In addition to the Major League Baseball staff, former umpire Dale Scott, who in 2014 became the first active umpire to come out, was at the front railing when the float began its route around 3 p.m.
"It was funny -- I was giving Billy the business the last couple of years because the NBA had a float," Scott said. "I said, 'Billy, come on. They're beating us to the punch.' So this year I had dinner with Billy in Phoenix in March, and he goes, 'We're going to have one.' And I go, 'Finally!"
Scott was an umpire from 1986 until his retirement after the 2017 season.
"We have come a long, long way since '86," Scott said. "I am so happy and proud that we've come this far and baseball's come this far. It's outstanding."
Although Major League Baseball was well represented, many of Sunday's participants were supporting allies.
"We're going to do everything we can to make it the most inclusive experience, because the truth is, 95 percent of the people here today are allies and not part of the community," Bean said. "That's the message to all of our fans: We want everyone to feel welcome whatever their place in the diversity spectrum is."
Bean, who played in the Majors for six seasons between 1987 and 1995, rushed back from the 24 hours of Play Ball events in Alaska early Saturday morning to be able to partake in the 2018 Pride Run in Central Park just a few hours later, the Youth Pride event that took place Saturday afternoon and, of course, the Pride March on Sunday. As the only openly gay big leaguer -- current or former -- Bean thought it was essential not only for MLB be represented at each event, but for him to attend as many NYC Pride events as he could.
"As a former player that's the only player delivering this conversation, I just wouldn't be able to rest if I wasn't here," he said. "I'm not going to be the only representation of this conversation, but until we have more former, current or young players, they need somebody to look to. It's a great responsibility, but it's a privilege to do it as well."