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Curtis Pride named new MLB Ambassador of Inclusion; Billy Bean promoted
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times

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His career in Major League Baseball spanned 11 seasons, with stops on six teams. Curtis Pride made his debut in the majors in 1993, and last stepped to the plate in a big league game in 2006.

Pride played in 421 games and had a lifetime .250 batting average.

He was, at the time, the first deaf player in the majors since 1945.

"Curtis Pride is an inspiring example of determination and an outstanding role model for kids and all those who overcome challenges," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement, released in early January.

Pride is now the head coach, in his eighth season, at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C, and, in early January, it was announced that Pride had been named the new MLB Ambassador for Inclusion. Pride succeeds Billy Bean, also a former major leaguer, who held the position since it was first created by then-commissioner Bud Selig in July, 2014. Bean, who is openly gay, was promoted to the role of VP, Social Responsibility and Inclusion.

"( Pride ) will offer valuable perspective as we continue efforts to foster an inclusive environment for anyone who plays or is a fan of our sport."

Pride is elated to be in the new role.

"It is an honor to be appointed as ( MLB ) Ambassador For Inclusion," Pride said. "I am very excited about this opportunity to work with Major League Baseball, to help make the game better and more enjoyable for everyone — from the players to the fans."

Pride was contacted by Paul Mifsud of MLB, though Pride didn't know why he wanted to meet. When Mifsud explained that MLB wanted Pride as its new Ambassador For Inclusion, "I was really excited about the opportunity because I know there is work to be done," Pride said.

Pride said his first goal with the new position is making sure that all 30 MLB stadiums are fully accessible to people with disabilities, and, making sure that the children with disabilities have a fair opportunity to play baseball on an equal level as others do, too.

Pride met Bean in early 2016, "and I was impressed with his passion and work," Pride said. "I am very excited to be working with him. I know that both of us will do a good job making sure that the players, regardless of disabilities or sexual orientation, have full opportunity to play at the major league level, and are being treated with respect."

Pride said in mid-January that he will know more about LGBT needs, roles, responsibilities, issues and more within the role, and the game as a whole, in the coming weeks after further conversations with Bean and others within MLB.

"I believe everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, should be treated fairly and should have equal opportunities for jobs," he said.

Pride said the new MLB job will involve a lot of emails and phone calls, along with trips to New York City to meet with MLB personnel. "It is a challenge that I look forward to because I feel that I can help make a difference in both jobs," at MLB and Gallaudet, he said.

Pride said he plans to be as high-profile in the role as Bean was. He will appear at many MLB functions, as well as the annual All-Star Game and post-season games. Plus, he will be meeting with all 30 teams.

"My short-term goals ( for the new job ) are to get myself acquainted with Major League Baseball people and the work they do with all 30 teams, and to develop a plan on how we can make all 30 teams fully accessible to all people with disabilities and different sexual orientations," he said. "My long-term goals are to make all 30 ballparks fully accessible, ( though ) that is not going to happen in one year; it is going to take some time, and eventually it will happen."

Bean, now 51, played in the majors from 1987-1995, with time in Detroit, Los Angeles and San Diego. An outfielder, he was a .226 lifetime hitter with five career home runs. He came out as gay in 1999, becoming the second Major League Baseball player to come out. Glenn Burke was the first openly gay baseball player.

"I want to congratulate Billy Bean on his expanded duties and commend him for the exemplary work that he has done throughout the game," Manfred said. "Billy has exceeded our greatest expectations since beginning in this new role, and he continues to illustrate that the National Pastime is built on a foundation of inclusion, respect and equal opportunity."

Bean said he was "very humbled" by his promotion. "I am excited and extremely proud to team up with Curtis Pride who will help us continue to expand baseball's message of inclusion and acceptance for our players, employees, and fans," he said.

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