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

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Dale Scott
Elaine Thompson/AP Photo
In this Aug. 7, 2013, file photo, Major League Baseball umpire Dale Scott prepares to return to action after being injured in the second inning of a baseball game between the Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays in Seattle. Rather than risk yet another concussion, Scott has decided to retire at 58. The veteran crew chief missed nearly the entire 2017 season after a foul ball off the bat of Baltimore slugger Mark Trumbo in Toronto on April 14 caught him hard in the mask, causing Scott’s second concussion in nine months and fourth in five years.

In 2014, Dale Scott became the first active Major League Baseball umpire to come out as gay. He’s 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 almost 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 about how I call pitches and plays than where I go after the game. And that’s exactly how it ended up. That 2015 season, that very first spring training game I had, the very first game of the season was like late February, early March, Cincinnati and Cleveland. I had two players come up to me and congratulate me, one was Marlon Byrd, who gave me a bear hug and said, “You’re free, brother, you’re free,” which was amazing. And frankly, I’m not saying that there were things said by fans, but I didn’t hear things said by fans that were derogatory to me coming out.

On the response he’s gotten from the gay community after umpiring in the majors for more than three decades and penning a memoir “The Umpire is Out: Calling the Game and Living My True Self”:

SCOTT: The people I’ve talked to on this book tour, telling me my story changed their life, my story gave them the courage to do this, or … this one lesbian couple in San Francisco, she was, I gave her a big hug because she said, “You don’t know how much hearing about you in a game I love …” and that kind of stuff. “You were there. And you were gay and you were out!” She says, “My self worth went way up.” It’s so humbling, my God, I had no idea how many people could be affected, either when I came out in 2014 or the book or both.

On his first experience working a Rockies game at Coors Field, which he was expecting would 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 are laughing at me because they knew that that was an anomaly (laughs).”

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

SCOTT: The machine, unless, I dunno how you’re gonna program it, but if it detects the ball in the zone at any point, the rule says, that’s a strike. Here’s what I’m thinking: Let the umpires umpire, like they have been for hundreds of years. But give the managers a couple of challenges before and maybe a couple after or whatever. And if there is a key pitch that they really wanna challenge, then you can do it. And usually, pitch challenges are pretty quick. Some people may say, “Oh my God, another stoppage in play!” Well, yeah, but it seems like that alleviates a lot of unknowns about an automated zone.

On the last game he ever umpired — in Toronto in April 2017 — after suffering a fourth concussion after being hit in the facemask by a ball. 

SCOTT: Listen, my last game, almost four thousand regular season games, in my last game, I exit in a neck brace on a stretcher. But you know us gays, we love to make an exit (laughs).