Gausman finds value in baseball's diversity

June 11th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Keegan Matheson’s Blue Jays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox. Julia Kreuz is filling in for Keegan Matheson for this story.

TORONTO -- Baseball in its core is a staple of plurality.

For nine months every year, different languages and beliefs meld together in the clubhouse, supported by the shared goal of winning. Each day brings new experiences: a Dominican custom North Americans weren’t aware of, a tasty Korean dish that teammates had never tried before.

It’s a pretty unique work environment. For those who are open to it, it can also be an opportunity to expand world views and challenge built-in notions.

has found value in that diversity.

“That’s one thing that’s unique about sports,” Gausman said. “Being in a team environment is huge. … As a baseball player, traveling and meeting people from all [walks] of life, with different viewpoints, it’s definitely shaped me.”

Gausman caught the ceremonial first pitch on Friday, the first night of Pride Weekend at Rogers Centre that capped off a turbulent stretch for the Blue Jays.

Just hours before Gausman stepped on the field to receive the ball from leZlie Lee Kam, an activist of 45 years who has worked with senior and youth issues in the LGBTQ2S+ community, Toronto DFA’d -- 11 days after the reliever shared an anti-LGBTQ2S+ video on social media. The club stated the move was performance motivated.

Bass apologized for creating a “distraction,” but he stood by his beliefs and the content he shared.

The Blue Jays, who had originally slated Bass to catch that ceremonial first pitch, turned to Gausman.

“Essentially they just came to me and said, ‘Hey, you were our first thought,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, absolutely,’” Gausman said. “I didn’t really have to think twice about it. For me, it was just an opportunity to be part of a cool weekend. …

“I hope everybody can feel safe at the ballpark and feel like they can come out here and support us. And we’re going to do the same.”

Gausman has supported Pride for years. Prior to joining the Blue Jays, the right-hander pitched on Pride Day in San Francisco in 2021, when the Giants wore rainbow-colored logos in-game for the first time. His wife, Taylor Gausman, posted a lengthy statement on Instagram last year showing her support for the LGBTQ2S+ during Pride month.

“Someone should not have to explain themselves for who they love,” Taylor wrote. “They should not be told the way they were born is a ‘sin.’ … It’s time we stop making this a fight only people who are going through it have to fight.”

The post resurfaced this year, with the vast majority of Blue Jays fans praising the Gausman family for its stance.

For Kevin, whose laid-back attitude has become an endearing talking point on this team, it was as natural as hearing a Spanish conversation a couple of lockers down.

“At the time, I really didn’t think too much about it,” he said. “But my wife was like, ‘People found my posts from last year, we got a lot of love.’ And I was like, ‘Good, that’s great. That’s what we want, I’m that glad people can understand where we stand.’”

There’s a lot more to learn from where they stand. And Gausman is aware that much of it wouldn’t have been possible without the game of baseball.

“I think about what if I’d just stayed in Aurora, Col., my entire life, I probably would feel a little bit different,” said Gausman. “Getting out there, exploring the world, getting to talk to people who maybe I don't share the same views with. … I think that's definitely shaped me into why I'm so open, accepting to everybody.”