Former Major League Baseball player T.J. House came out as gay and announced his engagement to his partner, Ryan Neitzel, in an emotional social media post Thursday.
House, who pitched for the Cleveland Indians and the Toronto Blue Jays from 2014 to 2017, said he lived out his childhood dream of playing professional baseball in Cleveland at 23, but that he used it as a “drug” to “numb what was really going on inside.”
“Deep down I wanted something more, I wanted to be loved not for what I did, but who I was,” he said in a Facebook post.
He said he felt like he could not be himself around many people, because of conversations he heard from others and in church.
“It’s hard listening to people talk about you without them knowing that the words they are saying are directed at you,” he said.
He added that shame kept him from coming out, but “love has finally set me free.”
House is only the third former MLB player to come out publicly, according to the LGBTQ sports website Outsports. He follows Glenn Burke, who came out in 1982 after playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland Athletics, and Billy Bean, who came out in 1999 after playing for the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.
“This is a great day for the league and baseball,” Bean, who is now the league’s senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, told Outsports.
Outsports contributor Ken Schultz said in a statement that House’s announcement is significant because there are few pro athletes in men’s sports who have come out, and that baseball in particular is still waiting for its first active LGBTQ player.
“TJ choosing to share his story publicly reinforces our presence in the clubhouse and gives modern-day players an example of one of their peers living as his true self and sharing his strength and happiness with the world,” Schultz said.
In his post, House noted that the recent passage of the Respect for Marriage Act will allow him and Neitzel “to have the same rights and opportunities that each of you have.”
The bill, which the House sent to Biden’s desk Thursday, provides federal protection for marriages between same-sex and interracial couples.
“It protects the same benefits. It makes us equal to you. It allows Ryan Neitzel and I to come together and create something beautiful. It gives me the confidence to get engaged to the person I love (he said Yes!), to marry them,” he said. “I have a wonderful fiance, who challenges me daily to become a better person.”
House said at the end of his post that he is “finally healing” after locking up who he was for more than 20 years. “Today I am Loved,” he wrote.