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Brewers' David Denson becomes first openly gay major or minor leaguer in baseball

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Milwaukee Brewers minor league first baseman David Denson made history as the first active, openly gay player in affiliated professional baseball, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Denson was drafted by the Brewers in the 15th round in 2013, and per Haudricourt, has kept his secret since then. He came out to his family during the spring, then to the Brewers organization shortly after. He told his rookie-level Helena teammates after joining the team in June.

"Talking with my teammates, they gave me the confidence I needed, coming out to them," recalled Denson. "They said, 'You're still our teammate. You're still our brother. We kind of had an idea, but your sexuality has nothing to do with your ability. You're still a ballplayer at the end of the day. We don't treat you any different. We've got your back.'

"That was a giant relief for me," Denson said. "I never wanted to feel like I was forcing it on them. It just happened. The outcome was amazing. It was nice to know my teammates see me for who I am, not my sexuality."

Denson, 20, is hitting .232/.319/.368 with 14 doubles and five home runs in 65 games between Helena and Class-A Wisconsin in the Midwest League.

Denson is the first openly gay active player in affiliated professional baseball, but earlier this season pitcher Sean Conroy did the same with the independent league Sonoma Stompers, though they aren't affiliated with Major League Baseball.

Former major league player Billy Bean, now MLB's Ambassador for Inclusion, helped Denson in revealing his story. Per Haudricourt:

"He is definitely cognizant of how it might affect his team," said Bean, who eventually quit baseball over the personal conflict of hiding his sexuality. "I just wanted to make sure his parents were part of the conversation. David has two loving parents who obviously are very concerned. They're worried about how this will affect him.

"Any player who happens to be gay and is a professional and has kept that secret, they just want to be judged for their baseball or football or basketball ability. David would not be playing professional baseball if he wasn't an excellent baseball player.

"The beauty of what could come from this is he can be an example that can help change that perception and change the stereotype that there would never be a gay person on a men's professional sports team. That was something I struggled with."

The Brewers released a statement Sunday in support of Denson.

"David is a highly respected member of the Milwaukee Brewers family, and he is a very courageous young man," the statement read. "Our goal for David is to help develop him into a Major League player, just as it is for any player in our system, and we will continue to support him in every way as he chases that dream."