A large part of Out in the Field is about how two different professional baseball players decide whether, or how, to come out of the closet.
Technically, they wouldn’t be the first. In the 1970s, Glenn Burke came out to his teammates on the LA Dodgers. According to Burke’s autobiography, the Dodgers’ GM offered to pay for a nice honeymoon if he agreed to marry. Burke refused. Burke’s Dodgers teammates liked him; he didn’t think anyone cared that he was gay. But when Burke was traded to the Oakland As, some thought homophobia was involved. Burke hardly played at all, despite being a good player by the numbers, and when former Yankees manager Billy Martin came to Oakland in 1980, he was known to use the word “faggot” around the clubhouse. Players avoided showering with Burke. That same year, Burke injured his knee, was sent to the minors, and then released from his contract, which effectively ended his career.
Burke’s other claim to fame, which I just think is interesting trivia, is that he is credited with inventing the high-five.
Anyway, after baseball, Burke struggled. He was outed publicly by a magazine in 1972. He turned to drugs, particularly cocaine, and he was later in a car accident. He died from complications from AIDS in 1995.
I find Burke’s story sad, but he’s notable for being the first player (that we know about) to come out, albeit not to the media, while still an active player. The only other Major League baseball player to come out is Billy Bean, who came out after he retired, and was hired a few years ago to be the MLB’s Ambassador for Inclusion. Bean is now developing training and education programs to help teams support LGBT individuals through all parts of the organization, hopefully paving the way for an active gay player to come out.
When I wrote the first edition of Out in the Field back in 2011, the progress athletes have made recently seemed remote. Now I think it’s only a matter of time before we have an out gay baseball player. Or a Major League baseball player who happens to be gay. The fact that the MLB supports LGBT people in ways they didn’t in Glenn Burke’s day is certainly a step in the right direction.
So who knows? Maybe the time for an Iggy Rodriguez—or a Matt Blanco, even—is just around the corner.
Matt Blanco is a legend on the Brooklyn Eagles, but time and injuries have taken their toll. With his career nearing its end, he’s almost made it to retirement without anyone learning his biggest secret: he’s gay in a profession not particularly known for its tolerance.
Iggy Rodriquez is the hot new rookie in town, landing a position in the starting lineup of the team of his dreams and playing alongside his idol, Matt Blanco. Iggy doesn’t think it can get any better, until an unexpected encounter in the locker room with Matt proves him wrong.
A relationship—and everything it could reveal—has never been in the cards for Matt, but Iggy has him rethinking his priorities. They fall hard for each other, struggling to make it through trades, endorsement deals, and the threat of retirement. Ultimately they will be faced with a choice: love or baseball?
Review by Claire Potterton
Wonderfully engaging story.
I am not a sports fan, but I am a fan of a good sports themed romance, and this is definitely a good sports themed romance!
Matt and Iggy are hugely likeable characters; successful sportsmen, both living in the closet for fear of the ramifications of being an ‘out’ professional baseball player, one nearing the end of his career, the other just beginning. Injury, a significant age difference and the trials of a relationship in secret make for a truly engaging story. The romance is both sweet and hot; the emotional angst is pivotal to the story, well written and believable; the love between Matt and Iggy is deep and enduring, making this an immensely enjoyable book.
Kate McMurray is an award-winning romance author and an unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She has served as President of Rainbow Romance Writers and is currently the president of the New York City chapter of RWA. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.