MILWAUKEE (AFP) - David Denson has become the first openly gay player in the Major League Baseball development system, the Milwaukee Brewers prospect revealing his homosexuality in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
The 20-year-old first baseman from California plays for the Helena Brewers of the rookie-level Pioneer League and came out after consulting with Billy Bean, a former major league player who is Major League Baseball's first ambassador for inclusion.
Denson said he told his coaches before the season and his teammates about a month ago that he was gay.
"Talking with my teammates, they gave me the confidence I needed, coming out to them," Denson told the newspaper.
"They said, 'You're still our teammate. You're still our brother. We kind of had an idea, but your sexuality has nothing to do with your ability. You're still a ballplayer at the end of the day. We don't treat you any different. We've got your back.'
"That was a giant relief for me. I never wanted to feel like I was forcing it on them. It just happened. The outcome was amazing. It was nice to know my teammates see me for who I am, not my sexuality."
Denson played last season for the Class A Midwest League Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, three levels below the major leagues in the US talent development system, and was reassigned to the lower-level squad for first-year players earlier this season.
"I'm hoping it will open the eyes of people in general that we're all people, we're human, we're brothers in the sport," Denson said. "I'm excited to see where it goes from here, now that I don't have that wall holding me back anymore."
Denson follows several US athletes in revealing they are gay while playing, including Jason Collins in the NBA, Robbie Rogers in Major League Soccer and Michael Sam, who was selected in the NFL Draft last year and player in the Canadian Football League earlier this season.
Sean Conroy, a pitcher for the Sonoma Stompers, revealed that he is gay in June, but his minor-league club is not affiliated with Major League Baseball or its talent development system.