One of Major League Baseball's off-the-field stars received some well-deserved recognition Friday, as former big leaguer Billy Bean was named Outsports' Male Hero of the Year.
Bean, who publicly revealed he is gay in 1999, currently serves as MLB's first Ambassador for Inclusion. He provides guidance and training in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to help establish a fair workplace throughout baseball.
"I am humbled by the acknowledgment from www.outsports.com," Bean said. "I have followed their work for the past 15 years and they have done so much for the LGBT community.
"However, I am equally grateful to Commissioner [Rob] Manfred and my colleagues throughout MLB for their support of our inclusive message. We have worked very hard to lead a conversation that is respectful of our sport, but also is clear in our desire to ensure a fair and equitable workplace for everyone who is a part of our great game."
Bean, 51, played in parts of six Major League seasons from 1987-89 and 1993-95 with the Tigers, Dodgers and Padres. He has since been a public figure in the LGBT and baseball communities as a motivational speaker and author of a book titled "Going the Other Way: Lessons from a Life In and Out of Major League Baseball."
Former Commissioner Bud Selig appointed Bean to his new role in July 2014, one year after the league introduced a policy prohibiting players from harassing and discriminating against other players based on their sexual orientation.
Bean now develops educational initiatives against sexism, homophobia and prejudice, and helps to establish a safe, inclusive environment in baseball. He's been a major presence around the game and has a hand in shaping MLB policy and procedure with an eye toward equality.
Bean and late former outfielder Glenn Burke remain the only two Major League players to disclose they are gay. But in the 18 months since Bean assumed his ambassador role, numerous people within the baseball community -- front-office executives, Minor Leaguers, an umpire and a ballboy -- have publicly come out as gay, more than in any other major professional sports league.
Bean's efforts throughout his brief tenure earned him recognition from Outsports, a site devoted to LGBT issues and personalities in sports. Runners-up for the honor include triathlete Chris Mosier, Dartmouth runner Phil Claudy, and lacrosse players Braeden Lange and Andrew Goldstein.
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.