After reading Joshua Martino’s Fontana, the outstanding fictional tale of a professional baseball player who is outed by a journalist and then falls victim to the aftermath of that invasion of his privacy, I was both hesitant and tempted to read Kate McMurray’s Out in the Field. Where Fontana does absolutely nothing to romanticize the plight of baseball player Ricky Fontana, Out in the Field takes a slightly less heart-wrenching but no less touching look at what it means to be gay in a world where testosterone and machismo and intolerance drive the attitudes of some players and fans alike.
Matt Blanco and Ignacio “Iggy” Rodriguez are the ballplayers who star in Kate McMurray’s fictional exposé of what it means to be forced to hide who they are from the prying eyes of the media and the public in order to play in the sport at which they both excel. Iggy is the rising star, whereas Matt is approaching the twilight days of his legendary career with the Brooklyn Eagles, and theirs is a May/December romance that thrives but is also tested by the terror of being exposed to the world, fearing the backlash of such a revelation and its impact upon their personal, and especially their professional, lives.
Theirs is a story of courage, which doesn’t have anything to do with being unafraid and has everything to do with facing that fear and persevering and standing up, finally, and being proud of not only who you are but also of whom you love. Matt doesn’t come out until after he’s already retired and written a memoir of his days in baseball, exposing what it means to be a closeted athlete, which doesn’t diminish that courage at all, but it’s really Iggy who risks everything by confessing his sexuality during his ascension into the major celebrity of professional sports and product endorsement.
There’s a line in Fontana that places the pettiness of this topic directly into the laps of those who seem to believe the private lives of public people are fair game—“The question isn’t, are we ready for a gay athlete? The question is, why do we have to ask if we’re ready?” And that’s truly the heart of the issue in Out in the Field; why is it even an issue at all, and why does finding out an outstanding athlete is gay suddenly diminish all that he’s accomplished and all that he’s still capable of?
Kate McMurray tackles this subject and wraps it in the romantic story of two men who become so much more than just teammates; they become each other’s touchstones, where home is wherever the other is and it becomes increasingly obvious that they would be willing to sacrifice everything if that sacrifice means they could live and love each other openly.
In Iggy and Matt’s world, it all works out much better than it did for Ricky Fontana, and these two books exemplify the extreme opposite answers to this single question. It’s difficult to say which would be the more realistic outcome—whether it would be as crushing as the aftermath of Ricky’s outing or whether it would be rather less complicated (and maybe too simplistic), as it was for Matt and Iggy. Maybe the reality lies somewhere in between, and maybe someday, who a person loves won’t be permitted to bring into question whether he can still play the sport he loves.
Buy Out in the Field HERE.