Richard’s Note: Christina Kahrl is a Senior Editor at ESPN.com and one of the co-founders of Baseball Prospectus and a LGBTQ activist. The story of her coming out as a transgender sportswriter in 2003 was part of a GLAAD award-nominated segment entitled “Transitions” on HBO Real Sports that aired in 2010. She is also on GLAAD’s Board of Directors and can be reached on Twitter at @ChristinaKahrl.
The following text was originally posted by Christina on her Facebook page. Christina and her wife Charley attended Pride Night at the Hartford Yard Goats game on 6/26/17 as part of the “You Can Play” initiative. I thought it was a funny, lovely and quite insightful write up of what her experiences were with the Colorado Rockies Double-A Affiliate, so I asked her if I could share it with our audience here. I’m glad she agreed :)
It was just another Monday afternoon at work when Charley called to let me know that, surprise, surprise, it's going to be Pride Night at the Yard Goats game in 2.5 hours, and better yet it's a You Can Play initiative. Since our move to CT we had not yet made the time to get to brand-new Dunkin Donuts Park, but she's taken the initiative on wanting to go, so I'm over the moon.
After a quick consult with Dan Mullen on best seats, we pick a section over the phone, and we're off to the races. I swing by home to pick her up, and Charley being Charley, she's donned her "Don't Piss Off the Fairies" tanktop, so we're already laughing as we head to the park. Twenty minutes later we're there, just after the gates open.
It's a nice ballpark, roughly on par with the newer spring training parks in Arizona in terms of space, seating and setup. We walk in and promptly collect our rainbow Yard Goats/YCP bracelets. Some folks are walking right by the table, and some families with kids of all ages -- "normal" families as some would have it -- are putting them on. There's no controversy; some folks are cool, some are uninterested. Not that I worry about such things, because the ballpark is always a place I feel safe, but Charley's reliably, understandably protective.
We pop into the team store to get some Pride Night t-shirts, plus yet another novelty baseball (I pick Chew Chew over Chompers for those who must know. At some point I'll wall-mount the bucket or two of the things I have in the home office.) Concessions? Everything that's gluten-free is clearly marked. A chicken sandwich and hard cider might not be a dog and a beer, but it'll do quite nicely for a celiac.
We take our seats near home plate down the third-base line, and they're great, although we note that next time some swivel seats might be better still. We laugh over mascot-related pre-game silliness -- Chompers the Yard Goat likes busting dance moves, Chew Chew the Yard Goat waves and wiggles her belly, Toner the Copy Cat acts like he's a punitive assignment for somebody in the front office who forgot to refill the coffee machine. The entertainment doesn't need to be highbrow, and isn't. Charley's laughing and I'm at a park on a perfect June night without a care in the world.
The pregame You Can Play video -- with Yard Goats players and staff -- advocating for inclusion for LGBT folks and safety in the locker room is excellent, proud and out loud without being scold-y. A few folks around us are 'family' (if you catch my drift), most of the families are not, and everyone's cool, which is exactly as it should be at a ballpark. I tell Charley a little about Brendan Rodgers, the Rockies' No. 1 prospect who was recently called up, because my superhero identity is Pedantula and I can boringly bring a beautiful night at the ballpark back to the baseball part of it.
The game gets underway, and we have a dad who's an active heckler a few seats away. It's all clean -- he has two little girls in tow -- and he basically just screams out the name of the opposing Rumble Ponies as they step up to bat. Amused as we are by the notion of Binghamton's team name, we have our own heckle for them: taking our cue from the Scottish comedy show "Chewin' the Fat" we wiggle our fingers under our chins and cry out "OOOOOOooooh, Rum-ble Po-nies!" in ludicrous falsetto, cracking up some of the folks around us, and amusing ourselves perhaps more than we should admit as adults.
At one point, Rumble Pony P.J. Conlon drops the bat off his shoulder, steps out and stares after the heckler hollers, "Peeeeeeeeee-Jay!" To be fair, Conlon has a right to feel chuffed -- he's the pitcher and hitting in just his fifth game in three years as a pro, providing another reminder of how silly MLB's two rules, to DH or not, can be as it applies to the minor leagues and player development. Charley calls over to the heckler, "Nice heckling, sir!"
On the player development side of things, Rodgers is exciting in the visceral ways that good players are. When he makes contact, you get the sound you want to hear, an assault on the eardrum as much as the ball. I'm sure the exit velocities are good, but that crack is a song of promise that we'll get to see more of him playing in parks above and beyond Hartford. Whether or not that's at shortstop might be less certain; he makes a trio of errors, including an especially showy-yet-ugly overthrow of first on a ball that perhaps with age he'll learn to eat instead of making the attempt and surrendering two bases instead of one. But as a feat of strength goes, yes, the kid has an arm. With time, you can hope he gets better about how he uses it.
Brendan Rodgers may have two errors and two hits so far, but whatever else he's got 80 eyebrows #YardGoats— Christina Kahrl (@ChristinaKahrl) June 27, 2017
Speaking of music, Yard Goats catcher Dom Nunez steps up to ... a decidedly unusual jazzy sax song with an accompanying video of some two-tone dye-job guy swaying under a sheet of blue lace. We're not sure if this is supposed to be a Pride Night thing or Nunez's taste in music, but it's not your standard walk-up fare. As the game goes on and Nunez bats again and again in a 7-6 slugfest, and his at-bats fill the park with driving sax-y bleats, Charley's finally driven to ask aloud, "what is that supposed to be?" The woman in front of us shrugs, "I don't get it, is he the guy in the video?" "Kenny-G fanfic?," Charley offers. Gay or straight, cider'd up or less so, we're all laughing.
Which is all part of the easy friendliness struck up between folks sitting together. Charley buys a bag of balls for the young kids to use in a postgame entertainment; the tall guy who catches a t-shirt slingshotted into our section between innings by the in-game entertainment troop hands it to a delighted little girl.
We head home with laughter, to our exasperated cats -- routine has been broken! permission was most certainly not granted! -- and the reliably amiable dog. A game night, a date night, a nice ballpark, a new place to call home. Things are turning out OK here in CT.