Batboy Clark's courage an example for players
Last week my phone rang, and on the other end of the line was a young man named Spenser Clark. He introduced himself, and quickly shared that he is a senior at Howard University who has been employed by the Nationals as a batboy for the last two years. He also told me he is gay.
One of my responsibilities as MLB's Ambassador for Inclusion is to meet with our big league players to communicate the message of inclusion and acceptance. During this past Spring Training, I met with many of our clubs and inevitably chatted with some of the young men who help run those clubhouses. They have many responsibilities, the pay is short and their days are long. My memory of my playing days is that some of the big league players were pretty tough on clubhouse staff. It didn't make a ton of sense to me, but I never spoke up about it and regret not doing so.
You can imagine the unique environment a batboy walks into each day when he enters the clubhouse. Working around your heroes may sound like a dream, but it's not always easy. There is much to do to get a team ready to play each day. As game time nears, so does the stress level. There is little patience for a mistake, and everyone is on the move.
It may sound trivial, but every player sticks to a routine, and very quickly every batboy learns what should and should not be done. There are tasks at hand, like organizing the uniforms and clothes after everything is laundered to perfection, making sure each player's locker is reset exactly as it was the day before, then cleaning and shining the shoes so they look brand new by game time. Somebody needs to get everything ready, and that is what batboys help with long before they put on the uniform and take their spot on the field when the game starts.
So when Spenser also decided to come out, I realized that this was indeed a brave young man, and this was another sign of progress for the game.
Spenser deserves all the plaudits coming his way for taking this initiative, and the Nationals organization should also be commended for creating an environment that conveyed to one of its own that it's OK to be your best self. It also tells me that our inclusion and diversity work is making an impact. Is it news that a young man, age 22, who's a senior in college has decided to come out? Perhaps not, but when his employer is a Major League Baseball franchise, then, inevitably it is. I have said over and over that I can't wait for the day when an athlete's sexual orientation is no longer news. However, we are still working toward that day.
So for now, I want to say thank you to the Nats. One of your employees will go to work this season without the weight of his lifelong secret on his shoulders. Spenser will stand alongside some of our sport's greatest stars, like Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer, as his best self, and doing what he loves. Their support (whether vocal or quietly) sends a message of acceptance to all of us.
Spenser may not even know it, but the Nats' new manager, Dusty Baker, was teammates with Glenn Burke in 1978 on the Los Angeles Dodgers. (Glenn is one of only two MLB players in the history of the sport to publicly disclose he is gay). Dusty was and has always been one of Glenn's most outspoken supporters.
Spenser has a lot going for him. He says he wants to be a general manager someday. He knows his journey is just beginning, but he has great determination. He's already signed up to attend MLB's Diversity Business Summit next March in Phoenix, where he will get a chance to show his stuff to all 30 of our clubs. It takes courage to tell everyone who you are, and what you hope to achieve someday, and even more to go out and try to make it happen. I have a feeling we'll be hearing a lot more about Spenser down the road.