DALLAS — Two former Major Leaguers and a current big league pitcher spoke to students at a Dallas high school, imploring them to choose kindness over hate during an hour-long anti-bullying rally.
Rangers pitcher Adrian Sampson and former MLB players Billy Bean and Mark McLemore urged students at Pinkston High School to treat others as one would like to be treated and to stand up against bullying.
“This is the most important event we do this year,” Sampson said. “This is probably the one we have to pay the most attention to. This is our future [the students], right in front of us.”
Shred Hate is a bullying prevention program designed to reduce bullying rates in schools across the country.
Bean, a former Major Leaguer who came out as gay in the late 1990s, oversees the program as vice president and special assistant to Commissioner Rob Manfred. Bean has worked to foster a clearer understanding of tolerance in MLB clubhouses as well as community outreach programs such as Shred Hate.
The assembly reaffirmed what students had learned in the program, while encouraging them to continue to prevent bullying in their school in the hopes of creating a positive atmosphere and one of empowerment for those whose emotional development is imperiled by bullying.
The job has gotten harder since the onset of cyberbullying, which has made it possible for bullies to hide behind screens.
“The culture has been what we have been focusing on,” Bean said. “I’m not waiting for a player to carry the conversation. In my mind, the conversation we have, the type of environment we foster in our clubhouses, the players will be the ambassadors of that. What we used to look away and giggle at, it’s a different world. What the managers say, they way we talk, the messaging in the ballparks, it’s all connected.
“This is about creating environments that are accepting. You don’t have to march in an LGBT parade, you don’t have to go out of your way, but what you say and what you do … if boys like to call other boys the ‘F’ word, I’m trying to eliminate that in our sport. These kids are going to imitate what these players do.”
The Rangers planned to host students from all 18 schools in the Dallas area that participate in the Shred Hate program as well as student-athletes from the Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy.
Major League Baseball still boasts the best example of standing up to bullies with dignity: Jackie Robinson integrated baseball in 1947, yet, despite the Hall of Famer’s ability, on a daily basis he faced insults and threats from the bully bigots.
Robinson stood up against it with courage and grace.
“There is still something to learn from that. He still has a lifelong message to turn the other cheek and treat others the way you want to be treated,” McLemore said after the assembly. “He showed them who he was, his character. And that’s what this is all about … to stamp out hate any way you can.
“The best way, in my opinion, is to kill them with kindness. That shuts them down from all the negativity and all the hate and opens them up to, ‘Hey, maybe I should get to know this person before I start throwing all this stuff out there.'”