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Major League Baseball’s Midsummer Classic, better known as the All-Star Game, returns to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles at 5p local time this evening. On the field, the best players in the league will be vying for bragging rights after a weekend of festivities that featured celebrity softball games, special exhibits, and plenty of opportunities for fan interaction and education.
Also in attendance will be former MLB outfielder Billy Bean, who once played in the stadium as a Dodger alongside legends like Fernando Valenzuela and Oral Hershiser. Now the 58-year-old native of Southern California and only living out MLB player is returning in a far different capacity with the game as Senior Vice President and Special Assistant to the Commissioner overseeing the league's diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
Bean tells Out Traveler the job is a “huge responsibility” that involves far more than community outreach. It’s a job he’s proudly cultivated and evolved over the last ten years.
Bean says one of his initial responsibilities in the job was “overseeing the program we call Ahead in the Count, which was a group of nine subjects that we bring to every drafted player about off-field, development and life skills, and that encompasses diversity, equity, inclusion, prohibited substances, financial responsibility, continuing education, social media, how to understand and protect yourselves from cyber violations with cyber security, working with the media, and, most importantly, healthy relationships, mental health, and wellness.”
Perhaps no one is better suited to this almost paternalistic role than Bean because the game he loves so much left him so battered upon his retirement. He’s often spoken of how life as a player in the closet negatively impacted his playing career as well as his mental wellness. Since the passing of the LGBTQ+ legend Glenn Burke, Bean is the only current or retired out MLB player alive today, and he’s determined to use his own life experiences to prepare the league and its fans for the eventuality when he’s not alone with that distinction.
“It’s a different time and place when I played, when Glenn Burke played,” Bean says. “And culturally it was acceptable to perpetuate all of those stereotypes that other people were defining our community by. We never had a chance to author our own biographies and now we do because we have fought and persevered. And so I feel great responsibility and pride to be an example of my community to baseball.”
MLB’s Midsummer Classic All-Star Game takes place tonight at 5p Pacific at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The game will be televised nationally on Fox and streamed on FoxSports.com.