Lately, being courageous is something to admire. We need courageous people if we are going to get through these turbulent times. You know what is amazing about courageous people though? They are never aware that what they are doing is courageous, most of them are just doing, “what is right”. It’s a common thread among history’s greatest human beings. It’s also a common thread among our Glenn Burke Award recipients.
This year is no exception.
Even though I am not always successful, I try to stand up for what is right at every possible turn. Over the past 12 months, I have been more and more vocal in my support for civil rights and equality, because it has become more and more necessary. I have come to realize that the only way I can truly help is to continue to show my support, offer my help, and my voice. And when I read a story or hear about someone who is an agent of positive change, it is my responsibility to introduce them to you.
So, this is my new friend Stacy.
Stacy Piagno is a professional baseball player for the Sonoma Stompers, who played college ball at the University of Tampa. She is also one of only three women to record a win in a professional baseball game since the 1950’s. Did I also mention that she is a member of the USA Women’s National Baseball Team? That too.
She also recently met Harry Connick Jr.
That one just makes me a little jealous.
As a quick refresher, Glenn Burke was the first openly gay athlete in professional American sports. Burke was a rising star on the Dodgers and is often credited with creating the high-five. He was offered a $50,000 bonus to marry a woman, and when he refused the Dodgers traded him. Then, known prick, Billy Martin belittled him and effectively buried him on the bench. Injuries and bigotry lead to Glenn’s career ending before it ever really began.
Glenn never made any apologies or tried to hide who he was inside, despite what may have been in his best career interests. At that time, it would have been so easy to take that money and pull a “Rock Hudson”.
That is why I admire him and one reason we honor him every year.
Truth is, Stacy absolutely embodies Glenn Burke.
The thing that I love most about Glenn, was that he was nothing other than himself. After spending time talking to and getting to know Stacy, she has that vibe about her too. You would never suspect that she has been to Africa to help the less fortunate, because she only mentions it in passing. Just another amazing thing that she is doing without making a big deal about it. Turns out she is courageous and heroic, effectively leaving her one toxic spill away from being a superhero.
Over the past year, Shawn and I have become so close with the AAGPBL and their board of directors. And over the past six months, I have been boisterous in my calling for a new women’s baseball league. Not just because I want it (and I do), but because I want it for my niece. I want it in case I have a daughter, so that I can tell her she is free to pursue any dream she wants.
Because as of right now, that just isn’t entirely true.
Stacy is absolutely the exception and not at all the rule. That is just no longer acceptable to me and it shouldn’t be to anyone else either. It’s time we all start seriously working to create the WMLB or a different iteration of the AAGPBL. You will all thank me later.
It is insanely cool to be able to tell my three-year-old niece that I know a woman who is a pro baseball player. So even though Stacy probably doesn’t walk around every day feeling like a hero, she is. As my niece and nephew get older, we will undoubtedly play baseball in the backyard. It is a humbling thought to know that my niece can have a female ballplayer to emulate. A young lady who is out there living her best life, doing what she thinks is right, and playing ball. It’s the life that I want for all of us and I am so glad that a person like Stacy Piagno is getting to live it.
My dedication this year is a little short. Not because I have less to say than usual, but because I think the best way to get a feel for the type of person Stacy is…just listen to the podcast that drops Friday. Then you can hear the confidence in her voice for yourself. You can hear her talk about how her teammates have been endlessly supportive. Maybe you would rather hear her talk about her historic victory this past summer. Either way, you are going to hear someone who embodies courage in the face of adversity. You can tell by the way it doesn’t seem to bother her, not even a little, not even at all. That is more than enough for me to root for her the rest of her career, and I encourage you to do the same.
Heroes are always worth rooting for.
The Hall of Very Good™ Class of 2017 is presented by Out of the Park Developments, the creators of the wildly popular baseball simulation game Out of the Park Baseball. Out of the Park Developments has made a generous donation to The Hall.