SAN FRANCISCO — A couple hours before first pitch here Friday night, a clubhouse attendant unboxed a fresh shipment of gear and made his rounds to every player’s locker. Inside each cardboard box were rows of brand-new ballcaps, each one adorned with rainbow-colored logos representing the LGBTQ community.
On Saturday, the Giants and Dodgers will make history as the first MLB game — and possibly the first major professional men’s sporting event in the U.S. — where both teams are wearing LGBTQ Pride logos.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” said manager Gabe Kapler, who has been outspoken about diversity and inclusion, as well as other social issues, most recently against gun violence in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting.
The expectation is that every uniformed Giants player and staff member will wear the Pride colors, the same as they did last year when the team became the first major professional sports franchise to visually celebrate the LGBTQ community on its jerseys.
However, despite the full participation expected Saturday, it became clear earlier this season that the supportive sentiment is not shared by all in MLB clubhouses. The issue gained new scrutiny when several Tampa Bay Rays players opted out of the club’s first time outwardly supporting Pride on its uniforms.
“The way we’ll handle it is by showing that we have all the conversations necessary leading up to the day and trust that those conversations will lead to the full-fledged support of our players and staff,” Kapler said. “I would say that the best example was last year.”
The Giants, long leaders among the sports world in the LGBTQ community ever since their inaugural “Until There’s a Cure Day” in 1994, became the first team to wear the Pride colors on their uniforms last season. Every player participated, and some, such as third baseman Evan Longoria, sported rainbow-colored armbands, as well.
Other teams have since followed suit. Saturday will be the Dodgers’ second time wearing the 11-color rainbow after debuting their digs on Pride Night at Dodger Stadium last Friday.
Infielder Donovan Walton wasn’t here for the Giants’ first time wearing Pride uniforms last year, but Saturday also won’t be his first time wearing the Pride flag on the field. Walton participated in Pride Night with the Seattle Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate, the Tacoma Rainiers, last season.
“They’re people just like everybody else. If we can support them in any way that brings them joy, I think that’s a good thing,” Walton said. “It opens our game to a new variety of people, so I think that’s a good thing.”
However, it hasn’t always gone smoothly in other clubhouses in a sport that is still working to overcome its reputation as an old boys club.
When the Tampa Bay Rays attempted to follow in the Giants’ footsteps earlier this season, several players removed the rainbow patch from their jersey sleeve and opted to wear the team’s usual hats.
Pitcher Jason Adam, one of at least six players to opt out, told reporters it was a “faith-based decision.”
“Ultimately,” Adam said, “we all said what we want is them to know that all are welcome and loved here. But when we put it on our bodies, I think a lot of guys decided that it’s just a lifestyle that maybe — not that they look down on anybody or think differently — it’s just that maybe we don’t want to encourage it if we believe in Jesus, who’s encouraged us to live a lifestyle that would abstain from that behavior, just like (Jesus) encourages me as a heterosexual male to abstain from sex outside of the confines of marriage. It’s no different.
“It’s not judgmental. It’s not looking down. It’s just what we believe the lifestyle he’s encouraged us to live, for our good, not to withhold. But again, we love these men and women, we care about them, and we want them to feel safe and welcome here.”
Baseball clubhouses are a melting pot of opinions — not everyone agrees, for instance, with Kapler’s stance not to participate in the national anthem — but no Giants players expressed any similar sentiments to the contingent of Rays.
“I don’t think we’ll have any issues in here,” Longoria said.
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