June 10, 2016 at 2:00 pm EDT | by Kevin Majoros
‘Ambassador’ Bean
Billy Bean, gay news, Washington Blade

Former Major League Baseball player Billy Bean will be at Night OUT next week. (Photo courtesy Bean)

Last month’s heckling of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus at a Padres game may have given the community a collective, social media-infused “WTF” moment, but while it was certainly embarrassing for the singers, it appears to have been more of a snafu than a malicious joke.

DJ Artform was in the booth when the music started. He says the chorus planned to sing along to their own recording of the piece but he accidentally played the wrong recording.

“In a moment of panic I went to the first thing I saw that said anthem and unfortunately the female vocal artist is what played over the PA system and it was an extremely embarrassing moment,” he said later. “Those are my mistakes and I own up to them. I hold myself accountable. My stomach was in knots. I should have intervened. I should have turned it down. There’s a lot of ‘coulda, woulda, shouldas’ that we could have done to avoid the incident. … My heart was racing. Every second was an hour.”

Roughly 100 choir members were on the field and they were subsequently escorted off amidst homophobic heckling from fans.

Major League Baseball (MLB) immediately launched an investigation and found the incident to be an unintentional mistake. MLB ramped up its efforts to address social conscience in 2014 when organizers hired Billy Bean as their ambassador for inclusion. He has since segued into the role of vice president of social responsibility and inclusion. Bean came out as gay in 1999, four years after his final season as an MLB player.

“I have a lot of friends in San Diego and they were texting me in real time while the incident was happening,” Bean says. “I am relieved that everyone understands that it was an unfortunate mistake.”

Social media quickly picked up on what happened and it was covered on all major news outlets. Everyone was looking for an explanation.

“The most frustrating thing was that the MLB investigation took close to four days and we were not able to communicate with anyone on the topic during that time,” Bean says. “The immediacy of people’s desire to get to the bottom of things really speaks to the nature of how quickly people find out and want an answer.”

Bean’s duties with MLB go well beyond the LGBT community and include other areas of social responsibility including life skills, issues with domestic violence, work with urban youth academies and owner’s diversity committees.

“The closer we get to MLB players, the faster the message gets to the fans. It’s the way the world works now,” Bean says. “Being the best product for our fans is very important. We wouldn’t have a platform to get the message out without being such a great product.”

With everything being tracked these days on social media, MLB players find themselves in a situation where their words and actions are representative of the team for which they are playing.

“I encourage everyone I meet with to leave baseball better than it was when they started,” Bean says. “I try to show them situations where they will feel some correlation to the LGBT community.”

When Team D.C. held its second Night OUT at the Nationals event in 2006, organizers asked to bring in the Washington Gay Men’s Chorus and were met with reluctance by MLB, club owners at that time.

“MLB had never heard of the Washington Gay Men’s Chorus which showed how uninformed they were about the LGBT community at that time,” says Brent Minor, executive director of Team D.C. “These LGBT community nights are important parts of educating the larger community about us including the fact that we are very enthusiastic sports fans.”

This year’s line-up of guests at Night OUT at the Nationals is an indication as to how far MLB has come in terms of inclusion.

“The journey we have been on has been filled with obstacles but today we are not getting resistance from my sport,” Bean says. “We have been handed a platform and we have to capitalize on it.”

Night OUT at the Nationals will be held on Tuesday, June 14 as the Washington Nationals take on the Chicago Cubs.

This year’s line-up includes:

MLB’s Billy Bean — special guest

Actor Leslie Jordan — first pitch

Bishop Gene Robinson — line-up cards

Congresswoman Krysten Sinema — play ball announcement

Washington Gay Men’s Chorus — National anthem (Live)

Singer Ty Herndon — With the chorus and soloing on “Take Me Out”

Spirit Award — Mona Alcazar. Accepted by her wife, Nancy Bates

If the umpire rotation stays on schedule, MLB’s first openly gay umpire, Dale Scott, will be handling home plate duties.

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