Bryan Ruby ’19—First Pro U.S. Baseball Player to Come Out Publicly—Says ‘Gay Can Play’
Bryan Ruby ’19 generated national headlines last year when he became the first professional baseball player in the country to publicly announce he is gay. Ruby returned to Vassar April 7 to thank the Vassar community—including some former teammates on the baseball team—for the support they had shown that had helped him make his momentous decision.
“Playing baseball was a big part of my Vassar experience, and when I came out to my teammates, their acceptance and support enabled me to tell my family,” Ruby said during his hour-long talk in Taylor Hall. “And once I came out on campus, my performance on the field and my academics both improved dramatically because I had received so much support from my peers.”
Ruby, who has played for baseball teams in six foreign countries, made his public announcement last summer while playing for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in an independent league in Oregon. His story appeared in USA Today and was picked up by more than 100 other media outlets. Since then, he said, he has been contacted by numerous athletes from all over the world, including a top minor league baseball prospect. “He told me he reached out to me because there was no one else to ask,” Ruby said.
To provide more options for such athletes, Ruby recently co-founded Proud to Be in Baseball, an advocacy organization whose members appear at baseball teams’ Pride Nights and other events and provide advice and support to high school, college and professional athletes. “I’m lucky to have attended Vassar, where I found so much acceptance, but that isn’t the case in most other places,” he said.
Ruby said he wasn’t sure how his decision would be greeted by his own teammates in Oregon when he told them he intended to come out publicly. But he got a welcome response from one teammate that he didn’t expect. “He was a macho-type guy who often bragged about his sexual conquests, and when I told everyone in the locker room, he started to walk toward me,” Ruby related. “I didn’t know what to expect, and then he hugged me and told me he had been teased as a kid in Puerto Rico because he had two dads. He told me, ‘Anybody who has a problem with you will have to come through me.’”
Ruby, who lives in Nashville, TN, also talked about his second career, writing country and western songs for musicians there. He said he realized writing country music is not something most people think about as a profession for someone in the LGBTQ community, but he said he has gained affirmation for his work from his peers there, too. “I’ve found that if you write from the heart, you can succeed,” Ruby said. “It’s about proving you can perform, whether it’s as a music writer or an athlete.”
Ruby’s talk was co-sponsored by the Career Development Office, the Department of Athletics and Physical Education, and the LGBTQ Center. Ruby was introduced by AC Dumlao ’13, Chief of Staff of Athlete Ally, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ equality in sports. Dumlao serves on the Board of Directors of the Alumnae/i Association of Vassar College and is a co-chair of AAVC’s LGBTQ+ affinity group.