clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Discussion: Sexual Orientation in "The Art of Fielding"

New, comments

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

I recently finished the best selling novel, "The Art of Fielding" by Chad Harbach. I enjoyed the book immensely, but one small part had me wondering. One the main characters is gay and plans on playing on the baseball team.

Here is his interaction when he tells his coach that he is gay:

"Owen Dunne," Owen said. "Right fielder. I trust you don't object to having a gay man on your team."

"The only thing I object to," Coach Cox replied, "is Swartz playing football. It's bad for his knees."

There are a couple discussion subjects that come from just these two lines.

Did Owen need to say he was gay at all?

Since there are no open gay professional baseball players, the normal route for gay players is to keep their mouth shut about their sexual orientation. Owen could have been quiet. In an ideal world, sexual orientation should not matter, but we live in a far from ideal world. Owen was openly gay and figured the coach would eventually find out. He may have wanted to see if there would be any conflicts from the start. How are athletes supposed to approach this subject? Don't ask, don't tell like with the military? Come flying out of the closest? Somewhere in between? I don't know.

Did the the coach respond correctly?

My initial reaction was positive that the subject matter was handled responsibly and in a mature manner by the coach. I could see a coach say that comment. The more I thought about it, I have a feeling that the coach should have said a bit more to Owen. The coach may not of cared if the player was gay, but some of the other players might have cared. The coach maybe should have put a stipulation on that if any players on the team give him a hard time about being gay to tell him. With such a taboo subject, some actions may have been needed to protect the player. Did Jackie Robinson get mistreated? Yes and the first openly gay baseball player will also. I think the coach needed to do a little more to reassure that the player is accepted and safe. Thoughts?