“I realized that you could come out and still live the same life. An even better life.” – Spencer Clark
Spencer Clark lives and breathes baseball. He sees himself as a future general manager, running a major league team. No doubt that is a big dream for the 21-year-old Howard University senior, but I wouldn’t bet against him.
Spencer is currently the batboy for the Washington Nationals, where over the long summer he cultivated a relationship with members of the team. It was a dream come true for Spencer, to be at the ballpark, on the inside, one of the team, with one exception. Spencer is gay, and in Major League Baseball, no team has ever had an active player or coach come out as publicly gay. Spencer felt like he was hiding his true self, but he was afraid if the players knew, they would want him gone.
It was not an easy decision to come out, but Spencer came to the realization if he wanted to live his baseball dream, that meant he would have to be his true self. He chose to tell each player individually, so one-on-one he would be able to answer any questions and address any concerns. He’d also be able to observe each man’s reaction to the news, so he could determine exactly where he stood. To his surprise, all of the reaction was positive.
“The response was pretty nonchalant,” Spencer recalled. “Everyone was like, all right, now what? It wasn’t a big thing to anyone, which I think was what I was looking for primarily – not to become a thing, just to be a person.”
Spencer wrote about his experience in Outsports Magazine, raising hopes that Major League Baseball is becoming accepting of being gay:
“Coming out to my Nationals coworkers was a completely different experience than any of the others. At work I was tired of trying to fit into conversations about women and having nothing to say. I couldn’t express myself the way I wanted. I didn’t want to hide anymore. I was unsure about how “sports people” would feel about having a gay co-worker. I was worried about getting fired or ostracized, all because of who I am.
“None of that happened. I told everyone individually and everyone had similar reactions. They were proud of me and congratulated me for feeling comfortable enough with myself to be myself. They told me that nothing would change – and nothing did.
“I was finally able to be myself with some of my closest friends while working in the greatest sport in the world.The rest of the season went by without a problem and I was the most comfortable I have been in my life. I learned that you could be gay and work in professional sports.”
Spencer is not a player of course, but perhaps the reaction of the team will give closeted gay players a reason to consider following Spencer’s example. The time has come.
“The biggest difference I felt was in myself,” Spencer said. “It’s not really how people interact with me. It’s just the way I carry myself more. I don’t have this big burden weighing down on me. I can actually be a person. It’s cleared a lot of space in my head that was full with stuff that didn’t need to be there.”
Photos are from Spencer Clark’s Twitter album.