The Tampa Bay Rays raised more than $300,000 for the victims of the Pulse shooting as they celebrated a decade of recognizing the LGBT community with the Rays Pride Night June 17.
The team announced June 14 that all remaining tickets for the game would be $5 and that the proceeds raised for and during the game would go to the Pulse Victims Fund.
The crowd was only the second sellout of the Rays’ season as the played the San Francisco Giants, and the overall attendance of 40,135 made it the team’s largest regular season crowd in 10 years.
The Rays wore shirts that said “We Are Orlando” with rainbow colors, and the Rays’ logo during batting practice. The same shirts were handed out to everyone who attended the game.
Billy Bean, Major League Baseball’s VP of Social Responsibility, a retired, openly gay player, threw out the ceremonial first pitch and was also on hand to speak with the team on the importance of what they were doing that night.
“My job here was to just let them know what’s going on, what the Rays are doing and why it’s so important,” Bean says. “I also told them how grateful I am as a member of the LGBT community, because 10 years ago this would have just been Orlando’s problem.”
Bean admits that change takes time but that the Rays club is doing things he never thought he would ever see in Major League Baseball.
“When I was a player you could say ‘cocksucker’ and ‘faggot’ every five seconds in any context and nobody would bat an eyelash,” Bean says. “But I think you can see the message now with the entire team running out with ‘We Are Orlando’ shirts on, we are here with not only the victims and their family members of Orlando, but the LGBT community, the Latino community, the entire community of Orlando itself.”
Bean was named the vice president of social responsibility and inclusion about two years ago to bring educational resources about diversity, inclusion and acceptance, with the focus on LGBT players, to coaches, managers, minor leaguers and all 30 ball clubs.
“I speak to the front offices of each organization. For the first time players are hearing this message from a former major league player, as opposed to someone who just comes in – well actually I’m not even sure it happened before that way at all, but it’s been really embraced by baseball. I’m super proud of not only the support and financial resources to make that happen with all the clubs, but how each club is ready and willing to give their players some resources about life outside of the lines,” Bean says.