Team D.C. will host the 11th annual Night OUT at the Nationals on Wednesday at Nationals Park as the Nats take on the Tampa Bay Rays.
Proceeds from ticket sales will help to fund the Team D.C. College Scholarship Fund and the event continues to be the largest LGBT community night in major league sports.
When the Washington Nationals first came to town in 2005, one of the Team D.C. board members, Mike Stebbins, pitched the idea of a community night.
“It was hard to know if the event would be successful,” says Brent Minor, founder and executive director of Team D.C. “We bought 200 advance tickets and I thought we might lose our shirt.”
After those tickets promptly sold out at Capital Pride, Team D.C. knew they were on to something good. The event has grown over the years and more extras have been added thanks to Minor’s moxie.
“In the beginning we didn’t have the first pitch, the honorees or the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington singing the national anthem,” Minor says. “Major League Baseball was very reluctant. They asked if the singers would be coming out in ‘costumes.’”
The progression of extras began in 2006 with the addition of the Gay Men’s Chorus and in 2007 a member of the LGBT community began throwing the first pitch.
Night OUT at the Nationals ticket sales have plateaued at 3,500 to 4,000 and the evening, always held the week following Capital Pride, has become a social event for some and a chance to watch a Nationals game with members of their own community for others.
“It is definitely a well-rounded experience,” Minor says. “The most gratifying part for me is the diverse groups of people that it attracts. Besides the LGBT sports teams, our All Star Series Partners include women’s groups, corporations and religious groups.”
Minor says that over the years, the honorees from the LGBT community who have participated in the pre-game ceremonies have all been incredible, but one stands out in his mind.
“We honored Daniel Hernandez in 2011, the brave gay intern who helped to save the life of Rep. Gabby Giffords following the Arizona shootings,” Minor says. “It was the first time that we were able to honor someone publicly that might not have been honored otherwise.”
This year’s Night OUT at the Nationals is serving up a new twist in the form of a tie-in with the Washington Nationals First Ladies Club. Several of the player’s wives will be in attendance at the pre-game party and will sit with the LGBT community during the game.
Erica May-Scherzer, wife of pitcher Max Scherzer, is active on social media in support of the LGBT community and came across a few of the other LGBT community nights across the country.
“I wanted to get involved after reading about the backlash surrounding the Oakland A’s Pride Night and then the announcement of the first Pride Night with Max’s former team, the Detroit Tigers.” May-Scherzer says. “The wives are looking forward to embracing the whole event.”
For Minor, having the wives involved is a great step forward in the relationship with the Nationals and he believes that all the forward momentum will help lessen the mystique of the LGBT community.
“I hope that events like this have opened the eyes of the Major League Baseball owners and the baseball community,” Minor says. “The positives outweigh the negatives and that also applies to the possibility of having LGBT players in professional baseball.”
Tickets for Night OUT at the Nationals are $25 and can be purchased at the Team D.C. booth at Capital Pride Festival, Nellie’s Sports Bar and online on the Nationals website. Night OUT with the Washington Mystics (women’s basketball) is June 23 and Night OUT with the Washington Kastles (tennis) is July 16. Full schedule at teamdc.org.
This year’s event will feature the following:
First Pitch: Thomas Roberts — MSNBC television journalist and LGBT rights advocate
Line-Up Cards: Dr. Dana Beyer — executive director of Gender Rights Maryland and trans rights advocate
Play Ball: Eric Fanning — chief of staff of the United States Department of Defense
Ryan Bos — executive director of Capital Pride
Bernie Delia — president of Capital Pride
John Ramsey — Team D.C. Scholarship applicant and local high school baseball player
National Anthem: Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington
Pre-Game Party: With the Washington Nationals First Ladies Club near the Scoreboard Pavilion
Pre-Game DJ: DJ Chord spinning in the Scoreboard Pavilion
Pre-Game Entertainment: D.C.’s Different Drummers playing in Centerfield Plaza