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Countdown to the Gay Games
by Ross Forman

This article shared 3376 times since Wed Jul 12, 2006
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Age: 41

Height: 6'0

Weight: 190 pounds

Born in: Santa Ana, Calif.

Hometown: Miami Beach, Fla.

High School: Santa Ana; a multi-sport star and the 'Athlete of the Year' as a senior.

College: Graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 1986 with a degree in business administration.

Status: partner of 10 years, Efrain Veiga. Came out publicly in 1999.

Job: Real estate broker

The Quote: 'I don't know if anything really intrigues me outside of sports.'

The Quote, Round 2: 'Walking away ( from baseball ) , there was a little bittersweet emotion, and there always will be. I really want to remember the beauty of batting practice, the beauty of day games at Wrigley Field, etc.'

Gay Games role: Ambassador

Gay Games sport: Tennis

Cast in: A game show, I've Got A Secret, filmed in Los Angeles; on The Game Show Network

It's a Fact: Has two dogs, Paco and Beya. Both are Jack Russell Terriers

It's Also A Fact: Has completed several marathons

Book It: Wrote his autobiography, Going The Other Way: Lessons from a life in and out of Major League Baseball ( Avalon Publishing Group ) .

For the record: Played Major League Baseball from 1987-1995, breaking in with the Detroit Tigers; also played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres

It's a record: Tied a Major League record with four hits in his first Major League game

Stats: Appeared in 272 major league games and had five career home runs

Billy Bean knows the butterflies will be churning inside him when he returns to Chicago for the Gay Games, much like the times he came to town in summers past for battles against the White Sox or Cubs. He'll be competing and striving for perfection, but with a tennis racquet and role-model status as opposed to a baseball bat and utility-player tag that Bean carried throughout his major league career.

He is no longer Billy Bean, The Baseball Player. He is Billy Bean, The Openly Gay Former Baseball Player. More specifically, he is Billy Bean The Openly Gay Former Baseball Player And Tennis Aficionado.

Bean will be a tennis competitor at Gay Games VII and also is a Gay Games ambassador, joining an elite crew of athletes and the like who support the LGBT cause, such as Esera Tuaolo, Billie Jean King, and others.

'I've talked to many, many people who went to Sydney ( for Gay Games VI ) ; each says it was a life-changing experience. I'm hoping Chicago will be the same. I think it truly will be a wonderful experience,' said Bean, a Miami Beach resident who lives with his partner, Efrain Veiga.

'It's a privilege to be asked to be an ambassador, especially since I'm joining ( fellow ambassadors ) Billie Jean King and [ Dave Kopay ] . I think it's important for those of us who have been open and might influence others to be visible, though it's not always possible.

'For some time, I wasn't too sure about how comfortable I was with it being separate, but the fact that the Games are inclusive to everyone who wants to participate, gay or straight; that was very important to me.'

Bean played in the majors from 1987-1995 with Detroit, Los Angeles and San Diego. He was a left-handed hitting outfielder known for his defense.

Bean is the only living former Major Leaguer to acknowledge his homosexuality.

But tennis is his game nowadays, and he plays five or six days a week.

'I was always a tennis fan; I always followed the sport,' Bean said. 'The first day I played, I knew that was it; I was hooked; I loved the competition. It's a very technical sport, but also is a wonderful sport and has helped me remain in good shape. I can't get enough tennis.' He now a network of about 50 tennis friends.

'I feel like I'm a baseball player again, but I'm playing tennis. It's not for competition, or anything for that matter, other than the pure love of competition. Emotionally, tennis has filled that competitive gap left by baseball.'

And, he's a pretty good player, too. He won the first GLTA [ Gay and Lesbian Tennis Association ] tournament that he entered in 2003. 'I think people will see an amazing, competitive level of tennis play in the Gay Games; many people will be shocked,' Bean said. 'One thing I've noticed about the GLTA community, and actually the entire LGBT sporting community, is the camaraderie after competition.

'To see 12,000 athletes, that's going to be quite a spectacle, quite a sight; it's going to be a lot of fun.'

Bean said he isn't nervous for the Games. After all, he's pinch-hit in 40-degree weather against the best pitchers in the world.

As an ambassador, Bean said he 'wants to be accessible and to help promote sports' within the LGBT community. 'I want people to know that they should not feel afraid to get outdoors and compete.

'I'm honored to be asked ( to be an ambassador ) and take the responsibility very seriously. I'm a very approachable guy; I don't pretend to be something I wasn't. I dream of great things, always have, always will. And the sports fields, or courts, are my sanctuaries; they are my church.'

Bean is excited about renewing his friendship with former pro football player Esera Tuaolo, who he first met in 2003.

Bean also will be a Games fan—for his partner, believe it or not. Veiga and other partners from Bean's tennis group formed a bowling team. 'They joke that they're sick of just watching us play, that they wanted to do something which we'd have to come watch them play.'

What if Efrain wins a medal? 'I'll be thrilled,' Bean said.

Bean predicted that the opening and closing ceremonies will affect him tremendously. 'I've heard that they are very powerful moments, and I'm sure they will be,' he said. 'To be at the opening ceremony with, oh, about 12,000 people, that will be closure of some form for me.'

The closing ceremony, though, will be a flashback for Bean to his baseball days, running the green outfield grass at Wrigley Field and other historic stadiums across America.

'I'm so excited for the closing ceremony, even just to show and convey to my partner how classic and important Wrigley Field is in our country culturally,' Bean said. 'The Games will be humbling; I can't wait for them to start.'

Billy Bean and former U.S. Women's World Cup soccer goalie Saskia Webber will be doing the Oath of the Officials at Gay Games VII's Opening Ceremony July 15 at Soldier Field.

This article shared 3376 times since Wed Jul 12, 2006
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