Must-click link: the friendship of Billy Bean and Torey Lovullo

Getty Images

Anthony Castrovince of has an excellent story today about Major League Baseball Vice President Billy Bean and Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo.

The two struck up a strong friendship in the 80s, when both were Los Angeles area college players. Their bond grew stronger when both were drafted by the Detroit Tigers. They were roommates in the minor leagues and Lovullo was a groomsman at Bean’s wedding. Bean would be traded away from the Tigers, however, and over time they lost touch.

A big part of that had to do with Bean’s increasing estrangement from the game and the people in it. An estrangement born of the isolation he felt as a gay man at a time when being openly gay was considerably more difficult than it is today and being openly gay in professional baseball was inconceivable. Bean’s need to keep his sexuality private led to all manner of awfulness, Castrovince writes:

Hiding that secret from even his staunchest allies created complication. By his 1993 season with the Padres, Bean had left his wife and fallen in love with a man named Sam. They shared a condo 20 miles away from Jack Murphy Stadium, so as to avoid the detection of other Padres players. But when Bean hit his first big league home run on July 15, 1993, teammates Trevor Hoffman and Brad Ausmus showed up at his place with celebratory beers. Bean had to frantically push his partner out a separate exit to the garage. Sam hid there alone for several hours while a distracted Bean hosted his unexpected guests.

“That day sucked, man,” Bean says now.

The darkest days came when Sam became ill with complications from HIV just before Opening Day in 1995. Bean was by Sam’s side in the hospital the night he died and will have to live the rest of his life with the agonizing memory of the 24 hours that followed. That very day, the Padres sent him down to Triple-A after their final exhibition game. He reported to duty in Las Vegas and missed his partner’s funeral, all because he still couldn’t bear to reveal his secret to the team.

When Bean hung it up after the 1995 season he stayed away from baseball and went years without talking to his one-time close friend, Lovullo. But all of that changed a few years ago.

Castrovince’s story details how once close friends reunited and how Bean, now a high-ranking MLB official, and Lovullo, the Diamondbacks’ manager, have resumed supporting one another the way they did over 30 years ago when they were first pursuing their major league dreams.

It’s a good read. Take some time for it today.