Monday represented a banner day for baseball and the LGBT movement.In a ceremony at Queens Borough Hall, Mets officials announced the very first LGBT Pride Night for a major New York professional sports team. The turnout, excitement and profound gratitude to the Mets organization by a large collection of city
Monday represented a banner day for baseball and the LGBT movement.
In a ceremony at Queens Borough Hall, Mets officials announced the very first LGBT Pride Night for a major New York professional sports team. The turnout, excitement and profound gratitude to the Mets organization by a large collection of city leaders in attendance was remarkable. U.S. Rep. Steve Israel and Queens borough president Melinda Katz, among others, shared their support, their love for the Mets and said that they can't wait to attend the game, which will be on Aug. 13 against the Padres.
The roots of the Mets' LGBT Pride Night can be traced back to June, at a panel for diversity and inclusion at Molloy College on Long Island, hosted by none other than MLB.com's Ed Randall.
• Get tickets to the Aug. 13 game
After the discussion, a man named David Kilmnick made his way over to introduce himself. He is the CEO of LGBT Network, which serves the Long Island and Queens LGBT community in many different ways. David is also a longtime season-ticket holder and lifelong fan of the Mets. We had barely exchanged pleasantries when David said he had dreamed of an LGBT Pride Night at a Mets game for years. He had seen similar efforts from some of our other clubs around the league, and wanted this for his favorite team.
As soon as I was hired to be baseball's first Ambassador for Inclusion in the summer of 2014, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson reached out. Sandy has been at the top of our sport for more than 35 years, as both a team and league executive, and he is one of baseball's great visionaries. To show support of MLB's inclusive message, he said he wanted me to play in a Spring Training game for the Mets. It was an amazing gesture. I thought about it for a moment, but I didn't want to take any attention away from the Mets' players, so we agreed that I would dress out, throw some batting practice and help their coaching staff for a day. The Mets have shown great support for our message, and I knew they would be an ally in our inclusion efforts.
After meeting David, our conversations focused on the idea of an LGBT night at Citi Field. I had explained to him that special events at Major League ballparks often begin with a community group pushing for it. Many people talk about wanting to make things happen, but this man did his homework. I reached out to the Mets' front office and asked if we could schedule a meeting. They agreed, and we all met at Citi Field this past September. As I expected, David's vision and proposal to the Mets made everyone very enthusiastic. A decision like this can only happen if it comes from the very top of an organization, which is a huge compliment to the Wilpon family and the Mets' executive staff.
Monday's announcement was a culmination of David's hard work and vision, but the event and why it's important really hit home when two young teenagers from Queens named Ethan and Angelica bravely shared their personal stories of being bullied so dramatically that they ended up changing schools multiple times.
For those who want to support the Pride Night, a significant portion of each ticket sold will go directly to LGBT Network's anti-bullying program. Their representatives go to public schools in Queens and Long Island areas to communicate with students about this epidemic affecting so many every day, and then remedies for change.
Looking around the room yesterday, it was easy to be proud of MLB, and especially the Mets. We've been working very hard to help change the way people view old stereotypes and understand how discrimination affects all of us. Baseball helps make that possible, because it matters what we do and what we say. We do this by leading by example. If the Mets game on Aug. 13 begins a conversation that allows our LGBT youth to go to school safely, without being afraid, then Monday's announcement was big news ... for everyone.
Billy Bean is vice president, social responsibility and inclusion for Major League Baseball.