Richard Justice

Scott makes the right call, for himself and others

Scott makes the right call, for himself and others

Dale Scott has done his job with professionalism and precision for most of the past three decades. He's one of the good guys, smart and funny, a master storyteller. To know him is to like him.

Also -- and this part of his story is important -- his umpiring career got off to an awful start. Scott will tell you that his confidence was shattered, his baseball life hanging in the balance back in 1987, his second full season in the Major Leagues.

That's when the late Marty Springstead, then the American League's executive director of umpires, did something that had a profound impact on Scott, not just on his career, but surely on his life as well.

Instead of dismissing him -- and that possibility was on the table -- Springstead told Scott he was going to help him restart his career. And so, Springstead, with the help of some other umpires, including Rich Garcia, spent an offseason watching Scott work and helping him with technique and positioning and all the rest.

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Maybe they knew Scott had the makings of being a really good Major League umpire. After all, he'd already proven himself on so many levels just to get to the biggest stage.

Or maybe they just liked the guy and wanted to do whatever they could to help him. Maybe, just maybe, his essential decency was the thing that saved his career. When baseball people talk about Dale Scott, his likability factor comes up again and again.

That's important in a profession in which there's inevitable tension between umpires and the other men in uniform. The thing about Dale Scott that every player and manager will tell you is that he cares about his craft, that he's almost obsessive about it.

How do you argue with a guy who is doing his best to get it right? OK, to be honest, it's not all that difficult. Competitive fires rage, including Scott's at times.

Anyway, Scott will tell you that at age 55, after 29 years in the game, he has more yesterdays than tomorrows in baseball. He loves the game, loves it with all his heart and soul, but just like players and managers, he knows it won't last forever.

Maybe that's why he decided to let others know that he is gay, that he has been in a committed relationship, and now a marriage, with a man named Michael Rausch for 28 years.

Or maybe he knew what the reaction would be. Maybe he knew the whole thing would be greeted with a shrug, that in the end, it would still come back to how he did his job and how he handled tough spots and all of that.

Dale Scott may have been at the point in his life when he wanted people to know who he is.

He surely knew that Commissioner Bud Selig would be supportive in ways large and small. Part of Selig's legacy is a focus on acceptance and fairness and understanding and treating men and women the way we'd all like to be treated regardless of the color of our skin or sexual orientation or anything else. This was underscored this summer when former big leaguer Billy Bean was named MLB's first ambassador for inclusion. Baseball has often led or been in step with society, and in this regard, society has been changing for the better.

Dale Scott simply had to know this. He had to know that the men and women in this sport -- be it players or umpires or anyone else -- would largely embrace him and protect him.

Strip away everything else, and he's neither gay nor straight as much as he's ours. He represents not just gay men and women in a public profession, he represents a sport that prides itself on clubhouses in which players and coaches of different skin colors and different languages and different faiths routinely unite for the common goal of working together and accomplishing things.

Inside baseball, Scott knows the reaction will be largely, "Oh, that's interesting."

This is a signature moment for baseball, not just for Scott, but for the players and managers and executives who like the guy and care about the guy and want the best for him.

Here's to you, Dale Scott. Here's to your courage. Here's to your feeling comfortable with yourself and for being honest and open.

Richard Justice is a columnist for Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.