Bryan Ruby rounds third base after hitting a home run in a Mavericks League game from this summer. (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

Bryan Ruby told his family and close friends his secret four years ago. He then told his teammates this summer. But last month, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes first baseman wanted to share his true self with the world.

Ruby, 25, publicly announced in September that he is gay, making him the lone active professional baseball player to be openly a part of the LGBTQ+ community.

“It has definitely been a weight off my shoulders. I just feel more free,” Ruby said.

After completing a successful collegiate career in 2019 with Vassar College in New York, Ruby played professionally in Germany and Guatemala before coming to Keizer in 2021 to play in the Mavericks League inaugural season.

In the offseason, Ruby, a native of Nashville, Tenn., moonlights as a country music songwriter, often working with popular music singers such as Hayden Joseph and Xavier Joseph.

Ruby has been passionate about baseball and country music for the majority of his life. But as a teenager, he never encountered anyone that was like him in the baseball or country music scene, which is why coming out was so important to Ruby.

“That was the whole reason I wanted to do this. Being in two industries that, historically, queer people aren't represented, that is why I wanted to share my story,” Ruby said. “It's a scary spot to be in if you don't see anyone that is like yourself — especially when you love baseball and country music. I wanted to be the person I could never see as a kid.”

“I don't think of it as coming out. It's really more like inviting in. This is who I am and who you are shouldn't impact what you can do. Sexuality shouldn't be a barrier to what you do. I am hoping my story will help people in the same situation. You never know what people are struggling through.”

When Ruby officially made his announcement, he was overwhelmed by the amount of support that he got, receiving more than 6,000 notifications on his phone in a 24-hour period.

“I had to go walk around a state park for an hour just to clear my head. It was nuts,” Ruby said. “I got so many messages. I was honestly so surprised and humbled to see how far of a reach it had. I wasn't expecting that. I couldn't believe how many people were inspired,” Ruby said.

Ruby said he received a similar response when he came out to his teammates.

“My teammates and coaches were so supportive and awesome. The moment I stepped back onto the field, everyone embraced me. It couldn't have gone better,” Ruby said. “If you are a hard worker and a good teammate, you will be respected by teammates. I hope that when people hear this story, they won't be scared.”

The day after he went public with his sexuality, Ruby had a base hit with an exit velocity of 102 miles-per-hour, his hardest hit ball of the season.

This was no coincidence according to Ruby, who believes that being out will make him a better ballplayer.

“There is so much wasted energy when you are trying to hide in plain sight. Now, I am just able to play better,” Ruby said.

Ruby's announcement comes on the heels of a summer where Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib and Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop also came out as gay. While Ruby was inspired by both of their stories, his first inspiration came from his hero and mentor, Billy Bean.

Bean played Major League Baseball (MLB) for six seasons and is the one of the only living players (current or former) that is openly gay. In 2014, he was named MLB's first ever Ambassador for Inclusion, a role which puts him at the forefront of the League’s efforts for a fair and equitable workplace throughout all of baseball. Currently, Bean serves as the MLB Vice President and Special Assistant to the Commissioner.

Three years ago, while still in college, Ruby sent a handwritten letter to Bean, sharing his secret.

“I wasn't expecting anything in return. I didn't even put my last name or what college I went to. I just had my return address at the top,” Ruby said.

Ruby not only got a letter of encouragement in return, he was also invited to the MLB Commissioner’s Office in New York City.

Ruby still has Bean's response letter framed on his wall.

“Most people don't get to meet their heroes, but I did. I felt supported. I felt like if anything bad happened, he would have my back,” Ruby said. “He has been such a trusted resource.”

Additionally, Bean also gifted Ruby a special pair of cleats that Ruby has worn everywhere he has played.

During Pride Month in June, Ruby was encouraged by his teammate, Evan Brisentine, to wear rainbow colored shoelaces during games.

“These cleats let me know every time I look down that I have support,” Ruby said. “Being authentic is always a step in the right direction.”

Until last month, Ruby's friendship with Bean was his only tie to MLB. But on Sunday, Sept. 12, the Los Angeles Dodgers showed their support for Ruby by inviting him to sing the National Anthem before the Dodgers game against the San Diego Padres.

“I was treated really well there. The fact that there are people in MLB that want to be supportive means the world,” Ruby said. “It means so much that they would care about a little indy league player.”

Whether it's playing semi-pro baseball or writing songs for future country music stars, Ruby wants to use his platform to be an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.

“If I can lend my voice to the greater good, then I am all for it. But I can't wait for the day when people don't have to come out. Hopefully that day will come sooner rather than later,” Ruby said.

Matt Rawlings: [email protected]