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Joe Girardi, Yankees honor victims of Orlando shooting

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi and Colorado

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi and Colorado Rockies manager Walt Weiss lay a rainbow wreath at home plate to honor the victims of the Orlando shooting before an MLB baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Colorado Rockies at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, June 21, 2016. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Yankees and Rockies entered Tuesday’s game as two sub-.500 teams with the buzz of the Aug. 1 trade deadline already swirling, but before their battle to stay on the buyer side of the buy-or-sell debate, they came together for something bigger.

With a rainbow heart and #OrlandoUnited displayed on the Jumbotron, Yankees manager Joe Girardi and Rockies manager Walt Weiss placed a rainbow wreath at home plate followed by a moment of silence in a pregame ceremony honoring the 49 people killed on June 12 at Pulse nightclub in Orlando in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Girardi met the media in his pregame news conference in an #OrlandoUnited T-shirt, which is available for purchase online from the team stores of the Orlando pro sports teams, including the Orlando Magic and Orlando City SC. All proceeds will go to the OneOrlando Fund, a project of Strengthen Orlando Inc., created to benefit the victims and families of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

“I think it’s good to continue to bring light of what these families are going through, what the city of Orlando is going through and not to forget,” Girardi said before Tuesday’s game. “I think too many times in our country we have tragic incidents, we’ve pulled together and are really strong, and then all of a sudden we start to drift apart again and we go about our normal lives and we forget. And I think it’s important that we don’t forget and that we remain close as a country.”

Billy Bean, MLB vice president of social responsibility and inclusion, donned the same T-shirt as a special guest of the Yankees for the ceremony.

“You can’t ever expect to prepare to wake up on a Sunday morning with the news that we saw,” he said to reporters before Tuesday’s game.

The Orlando tragedy hit Bean on a personal level twofold. He’s one of two former Major League Baseball players to come out as gay after his playing career, and he spent time living in Florida, where his brother still lives with his family.

Bean was named the league’s ambassador for inclusion by former commissioner Bud Selig in 2014 before being promoted to his current position in January 2016. Bean’s initial hiring came a year after the league expanded its policies against discrimination and harassment to include sexual orientation in addition to ethnicity, religion, gender and national origin.

“Whether a player ever comes out on the field ever again, it might happen tomorrow, it might never happen,” he said. “I’m more concerned with the work environment, understanding, helping players to realize that sometimes jokes don’t translate so well . . . Think for a moment before you act because the world’s going to turn around, and they’re going to have higher expectations out of you. I’m here to help as like a big brother.”

Bean also has made visits to other major-league ballparks in Tampa and Washington that were planned before the massacre but turned into tributes to the victims of the Orlando shooting.

“This isn’t just a spin day here,” Bean said. “The Yankees are doing this because this is probably the sixth or seventh time I’ve visited their club on various occasions to try to educate, not only their employees, their community, their minor-league players, their major-league players. Joe Girardi basically is like you’re a part of the baseball family, and what we’re trying to do is just give the players resources away from the field that allow them to make — you know, they’re grown men — decisions for themselves. I feel like baseball has really lived up to the expectation that we all have for ourselves in a socially responsible way.”

Bean said MLB is “never going to be done” when it comes to educating its players, particularly because of the size of the league and the amount of turnover it sees. But he said he’s “ready to do the hard yard” by continuing to visit major- and minor-league teams.

“There are going to be people in this stadium that don’t know what happened in Orlando last week,” Bean said. “And that seems hard to believe for all of us but to assume that everyone knows a percentage of what you know . . . I’ve learned through my own experience, is a mistake. And even if it’s just a moment, and the authority of the voice coming over the loudspeaker and everyone standing still, questions are going to be asked, and kids are going to take that to school and say, ‘I saw this at Yankee Stadium last night,’ to their teacher, and that might start to snowball conversation in the classroom, and then you start to get an understanding that’s not so graphic or maybe inappropriate to the age because whatever happens here tonight is going to be perfectly appropriate.”

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