HOUSTON — Few, if any, people who really know Kevin McClatchy believe he was a “bad owner,” even though the Pirates continued racking up losses under his watch. It was easy to see the man wanted very much to win, but external conditions — a fragile, and at times fractured, ownership coalition; very little money; poor decision-makers in the front office — kept it from happening.
When I spoke by phone with McClatchy this afternoon, he admitted that for all those years he kept a secret that he feared would dash his hopes to run the franchise and try to turn it around. McClatchy is gay. “I didn’t want that to jeopardize my chances to get the (ownership) deal done or to build the ballpark,” he said. It is only now, five years after being nudged out of his role as the Pirates’ principal owner, that he is going public. “It wasn’t easy, but it was the right time to do it,” McClatchy told me from his home in Ligonier, Westmoreland County. “It’s not a great existence to be scared about who you are and afraid to talk about it. I hope kids will know that if you want to play sports, as long as you love the game, that’s enough. You don’t have to hide your life.”
McClatchy’s decision to come out is the subject of an op-ed item in Sunday’s New York Times. The story appears only days after Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar was suspended three games for wearing an anti-gay slur written in Spanish on his eyeblack. “The timing is coincidental,” said McClatchy, who gave the commissioner’s office advance word about his story in the Times. “I made this decision (to come out) a while ago. Times are changing. We’re open about gays being in the military. Professional sports is the last public arena where this is still hidden.”
McClatchy’s decision to be straightfoward about his sexuality was welcomed by Chris Barron, co-founder of GOProud, a Washington, D.C.-based, conservative political action group that represents gay and straight people. Barron, who is gay, is a Pittsburgh native and a die-hard Pirates fan. “In my experience, the most important thing a gay person can do is be open and honest about themselves,” Barron said. “That changes minds more than any political affiliation. I’m hopeful there will be a time soon when something like this will be, maybe not a non-issue, but much less of an issue. Every time something like this happens, it makes it easier for the next person.”
McClatchy makes his home year-round in Ligonier and said the response he’s gotten from his friends, neighbors and business associates in western Pennsylvania has been overwhelmingly supportive. He keeps busy as chairman of the board for McClatchy Newspapers. “It’s a responsibility I take very seriously,” he said. Although he no longer has any role with the Pirates, McClatchy remains a passionate baseball fan. He chuckled when I asked if he still has the itch to get back in the game as an owner or executive. “In anything, I never say never,” McClatchy said. “But, right now, it’s not on my radar screen.”
Game 151: Pirates @ Astros, 7:05 p.m. ET
Pirates (74-76): 1. Starling Marte lf, 2. Neil Walker 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Gaby Sanchez 1b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Michael McKenry c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. Kevin Correia rhp (11-9, 4.09)
Astros (49-102): 1. Jose Altuve 2b, 2. Scott Moore rf, 3. Brett Wallace 1b, 4. Justin Maxwell rf, 5. Fernando Martinez lf, 6. Jed Lowrie ss, 7. Matt Dominguez 3b, Jason Castro c, 9. Dallas Keuchel lhp (2-7, 4.97)