By Enza Macherone
On Wednesday, Jan. 30, former Major League Baseball umpire Dave Pallone came to campus to speak about the issues surrounding sexual orientation and athletics in a talk called “What base are you really on?” The event, organized by Union Athletics, Student Allies for Equality (SAFE) and Speakers Forum, was brought to campus to encourage discussion on sexual orientation as it pertains to athletics and the lives of allies and members of the LGBTQ community as a whole.
Pallone, after spending almost 10 years as an umpire, wrote his autobiography Behind the Mask: My Double Life in Baseball. A New York Times bestseller, the book documents the personal difficulties he faced because of his homosexual identity in a traditionally heterosexual sport.
At the event on Wednesday, Pallone asked the students in his audience to imagine a secret they kept hidden and feared other people finding out. He held up a box no bigger than his hand, and explained that because he was gay in a world that did not embrace homosexuality, this part of his identity was constantly hidden away; hence, he felt as though he lived in a box.
“I had to remember every single lie I ever told,” Pallone remembered as he told the story of his partner, John, who loved baseball and would travel to the cities where Pallone was an umpire for the MLB.
If people saw Pallone with John once, it wasn’t a problem, because they would assume John lived in that city and Pallone was visiting his friend. But going to a new city each time forced Pallone to think ahead and “remember every single lie.”
SAFE Officer Lucas Rivers ‘15 explained that for SAFE, a major goal of the event was to “reach the various communities on campus,” including athletics and Greek life, in order to “get [their] name out there,” in terms of campus awareness of the new club.
A lot of preparation went into organizing the event. Rivers said that he conducted research, talked to other schools Pallone has visited and was in contact with him “every week since November.”
After the event, student and member of SAFE Andrew Viñales ‘13 discussed the importance of attending the talk. “I identify as queer,” he said, “and I think it is important that this campus is bringing someone here to talk about queer issues, and also because we have a lot of athletes here.”
The main purpose of the event was to open up discussion about the sensitive nature of sexuality as it pertains to athletics. Viñales, said, however, that “[he was] a little disappointed that a lot of male athletes weren’t here.”
Despite the minimal number of athletes present at the event, Viñales recognizes the talk as a step in the right direction for Union as an all-inclusive place, concluding, “I want them to know that I’m here,” he said.