PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Not long after baseball named ex-big leaguer Billy Bean its newly created ambassador for inclusion, he was invited to camp by Mets general manager Sandy Alderson.
The gesture, Alderson said, was embraced by the players.
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Still, the complexity of the issue came up Tuesday, when all-star second baseman Daniel Murphy said he did not approve of Bean's sexual orientation.
"I disagree with his lifestyle," Murphy told NJ.com. "I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual. That doesn't mean I can't still invest in him and get to know him."
Murphy, a devout Christian, joined the rest of the Mets players during a presentation by Bean before Tuesday's workouts.
"I don't think the fact that someone is a homosexual should completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect," Murphy said. "Getting to know him. That, I would say, you can still accept them but I do disagree with the lifestyle, 100 percent."
Bean, 50, played parts of six seasons with the Tigers, Dodgers, Padres from 1987 to 1995.
"I'm not here to change anybody or tell them that they're wrong," said Bean, who did not come out publicly until his playing days were over.
Instead, Bean hoped that his presence would further the conversation about baseball and its attitude toward gays. Though not every club in baseball reached out, Bean said the Mets and Alderson made it clear they wanted him to visit camp.
Initially, Bean had been asked by the Mets to play in a spring training game. Instead, he assisted coaches during workouts. At Alderson's insistence, Bean did so in a full Mets uniform.
"Images are powerful," Alderson said of Bean, who had severed ties with the sport, partly because of the inner turmoil he faced as a player. "It's sort of a symbolic embrace of bringing him back into the major-league family."
For both Alderson -- and manager Terry Collins -- Bean's visit resonated on a personal level.
Glenn Burke was the first major-leaguer to come out of the closet. He was once roommates with Collins when both were farmhands with the Dodgers. And during Alderson's time as general manager of the A's, the franchise offered Burke financial support as he battled drug addition.
In 1995, at age 42, Burke succumbed to complications from AIDS. Though he had been a member of baseball's fraternity, Alderson said Burke died as an outcast.
"That can't happen," Alderson said. "Never should have happened. It can't happen again."