Major League Baseball’s first openly gay umpire reflects on coming out, Coors Field and the ‘robo-umpire’

In 2014, Dale Scott became the first active Major League Baseball umpire to come out as gay. He has since retired after umpiring for 32 years in the majors. Scott was inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame in 2015 and has since written a memoir about his career.

Scott recently spoke with CPR’s Vic Vela. The two have known each other for nearly 20 years. The interview has been edited for clarity

On the response he got when he came out:

Dale Scott: I didn’t really know what the reception would be like. Although I said in interviews when it happened in December, I said that managers, coaches and players are going to be much more concerned with how I call pitches and plays than where I go after the game. And that’s exactly how it ended. This 2015 season, this very first spring training game that I had, the very first game of the season was like late February, early March, Cincinnati and Cleveland. Two players came up to me and congratulated me, one was Marlon Byrd, who hugged me and said, ‘You’re free bro, you’re free’ which was amazing . And frankly, I’m not saying there were things said by the fans, but I didn’t hear things said by the fans that displeased me coming out.

On the response he received from the gay community after umpiring at the majors for more than three decades and penning a memoir “The Referee is Out: Calling the Game and Living My True Self”:

SCOTT: The people I talked to on that book tour, telling me my story, changed their lives, my story gave them the courage to do it, or…this lesbian couple in San Francisco, she was, I gave her a big hug because she said, “You don’t know how much I hear about you in a game that I love…” and that kind of stuff. “You were there. And you were gay and you were out! She says, ‘My self-esteem has gone up.’ This is so humbling, my God, I had no idea how many people could be affected, whether it was when I came out in 2014 or the book or both.

During his first experience working a Rockies game at Coors Field, which he expected to be a high-scoring affair:

SCOTT: It was like a 2-1 game in two hours and 40 minutes or something. And I walked off the field and said, “What’s all this BS about Colorado…(laughs)?” And the guys laugh at me because they knew it was an anomaly (laughs).

In Major League Baseball, one day using an automated strike zone, a “robo-umpire” to call balls and strikes:

SCOTT: The machine, unless I know how you’re going to program it, but if it detects the ball in the zone at any given time, the rule says it’s a strike. Here’s what I think: Let the referees officiate, as they have done for hundreds of years. But give managers a few challenges before and maybe a few after or whatever. And if there’s a key pitch they really want to challenge, then you can. And usually pitch challenges are pretty quick. Some people may say, “Oh my God, another stoppage!” Well, yes, but it looks like it solves a lot of unknowns on an automated area.

In the last game he ever officiated – in Toronto in April 2017 – after suffering a fourth concussion after being hit in the face mask by a ball.

SCOTT: Look, my last game, almost four thousand regular season games, my last game, I go out with a neck brace on a stretcher. But you know us gays, we love going out (laughs).

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