About 4,000 LGBT sports fans and their friends turned out to the Washington Nationals Stadium Tuesday for the eighth annual Night Out at the Nationals, breaking the attendance record for previous years, organizers said.
“We’ve never gone that high,” said Brent Minor, executive director of Team D.C., the local LGBT sports group that organizes the annual event.
For the seventh year in a row, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington sang the National Anthem at the game, drawing a standing ovation from the crowd.
Although the Nationals lost the game to the Tampa Bay Rays by a score of 5-4, Minor and other organizers of the event said the LGBT attendees were thrilled over the event and plan to attend future baseball games at the stadium.
Prior to the start of the game, gay U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) was given the honor of throwing the ceremonial “first pitch” of the game as a crowd of Team D.C. and gay Chorus members stood by on the field.
NAACP President Benjamin Jealous also participated in the pre-game ceremony by joining Nationals manager Davey Johnson in bringing the official lineup card of Nationals players to the umpires. Participating in this ceremonial task has long been considered a tradition of Major League Baseball used to bestow honor and respect on a community leader.
“It was kind of our way to recognize and thank the NAACP for their support of marriage equality that they recently came out with,” said Minor, who noted that Jealous immediately accepted Team D.C.’s invitation to participate in the event.
In a post-game interview with the Blade, Jealous said he remains cautiously optimistic that Maryland voters will support the state’s same-sex marriage law in the likely November referendum.
“There’s a very good chance, but with any fight you’ve got to stay in fighting position right up until the very end,” he said.
Also participating in the pre-game ceremony was D.C. Police Sgt. Brett Parson, former commander of the department’s Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit, who’s gay. Parson was given the task of declaring from the field “Play Ball!” the traditional kick off for a game.
Additional reporting by Michael K. Lavers.