The Oklahoman

Minor league player comes out as gay

- Scott Gleeson USA TODAY

Bryan Ruby first started to realize he was different at 14 years old. That’s when the hiding began. Along with the darkness.

He found emotional refuge in two different parts of his identity. He’s a profession­al baseball player, a member of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, which makes him much closer to a journeyman than a major-leaguer. And he’s a country music songwriter, having written two songs that reached the charts, plus countless ballads in his notebook.

Yet it’s Ruby’s hidden part of his identity that he now believes can have the biggest impact, partially because it’s so foreign to the worlds of baseball and country music.

Ruby is a gay man, the only active profession­al baseball player at any level to be publicly out.

“I kept thinking about the little 14year-old me, who was scared because I’m a baseball player who loved country music,” Ruby, 25, told USA TODAY Sports. “Those are worlds where people like me are told they can’t belong. I’m not a hot-shot prospect. But today, you can’t find a single active baseball player who is out publicly.

“I want to help create a world where future generation­s of baseball players don’t have to sacrifice authentici­ty or who they really are to play the game they love.”

His coming out follows a summer in which Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib and Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop also came out as gay. After years of no actively out players in men’s profession­al sports, now there are three.

Playing the guitar in his bedroom in recent months, with posters of Dierks Bentley and Cal Ripken Jr. hanging in the background, Ruby sang a song he’s co-written that seems especially relevant given his purpose behind coming out.

“If that white line ever gets lonely, if the nights get a little too cold, if it don’t work out, if you have your doubts, you’ve got a place to go.”

Ruby’s goal is clear: to help others who are forced to hide their identity, too.

“Being closeted for basically 10 years, it was a struggle the whole time,” he said. “I used to hate myself. Hate how I felt. I’d ask why am I feeling this way?”

“I kept having people tell me, ‘Be very cautious of who you tell’ or ‘They don’t need to know your personal life.’ The best way to describe the hiding as an athlete is like you’re running with a weighted vest on,” he said. “It’s on all day and you can’t take it off. I’ve been gradually taking that weight off.”

Factor in Ruby’s second career in Nashville – where he moonlights writing hits for Hayden Joseph and Xavier Joseph – and you’ve got two worlds that scream he’s straight.

“As a country music songwriter, at first I thought being gay was a huge weakness,” said Ruby, who will be showcased in the upcoming documentar­y, “Out in Nashville.” “There’s this genre about drinking beer and hooking up with girls in the back of the truck. Then I realized that I can bring something different to the table. Love songs don’t need to be gay or straight. And I’ve been able to write my best songs by being authentic.”

 ?? AMANDA LUCIER/FOR USA TODAY ?? Bryan Ruby, a profession­al baseball player for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, Ruby is coming out as gay.
AMANDA LUCIER/FOR USA TODAY Bryan Ruby, a profession­al baseball player for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, Ruby is coming out as gay.

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