PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Billy Bean could have been any coach or instructor on Tuesday morning, throwing long toss with Matt den Dekker or pitching batting practice to John Mayberry Jr. But he was not. Bean was serving as Major League Baseball's ambassador of inclusion, spending the morning as an instructor after meeting with the entire organization prior to the workout.
The visit was the brain child of general manager Sandy Alderson, who approached Bean at the Winter Meetings and asked if he would attend camp. Originally, Alderson wanted Bean, an openly gay former Major Leaguer, to play in a Spring Training game, but Bean did not want to take away any time or attention from the players in camp.
"I didn't want it to be about me, or 'Feel Sorry For Billy Bean Day at Port St. Lucie,'" Bean said. "I've had a wonderful life and I've learned a lot, and now I'm very secure about who and what I am. But he was persistent, and now I understand the value that if we talk about it, maybe we reach one or two kids we might not have. The Mets have a lot of fans in the LGBT community as well, and there's a lot of fans who worship these guys. My message is the same: that everybody deserves a fair chance to be the best they can be."
Bean, who became MLB's ambassador for inclusion last year, retired earlier than intended because he no longer felt comfortable in professional clubhouses.
"It's a shame that he just couldn't survive in the game longer, given what he was feeling," Alderson said. "That's not right. That's not fair, and that's not something that in this day and age a player should have to face. It's not just about being gay. It's about having any kind of personal issue that makes it difficult to go out and perform, and enjoy the game. In a way, he just represents one aspect of a larger effort by Major League Baseball to ensure that players are able to focus on the game and get the kind of advice or support that they need in their personal lives."
Alderson told the story of Glenn Burke, a former Dodgers and A's outfielder who faced issues during his playing career because of his sexual orientation, later turning to drugs and dying in destitution. Mets manager Terry Collins, who roomed with Burke at one point during his professional career, used his story to reiterate to his players the importance of listening to Bean.
"I tried to keep it about baseball and about the upside to opportunity," Bean said of his meeting. "I think when they see me come and go and see that the world didn't stop spinning ... this is a big conversation. This is just big. So just the fact that they sat through that, and everybody was walking by and saying, 'Good morning' and 'Thank you' to me, that means that it went well."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.