One of MLB's  first openly gay players explains why its new hazing policy is a big deal.

It's one of baseball's most time-honored traditions: Veteran players making rookies dress up in embarrassing costumes.

Recently, the New York Mets rookies dressed like the women's team from A League of Their Own and fetched coffee for their teammates. A few years back, the Washington Nationals dressed as the U.S. Women's Gymnastics team and rode the train around D.C..

Starting to see a pattern?


This kind of hazing isn't unique to baseball. You see it in other team atmospheres too, from exclusive clubs to fraternities and sororities. It's meant to build camaraderie, to prove that the newbies are willing to put the team ahead of anything else.

But sometimes — OK, a lot of the time — this kind of hazing goes too far and crosses into offensive or dangerous territory.

That's why the MLB just announced a new zero-tolerance policy for all forms of hazing that mine humor at the expense of someone else's gender, religion, race, or sexual orientation.

Billy Bean — a former player of six years, one of the first pro players to come out as gay, and now the MLB's vice president of social responsibility and inclusion — explains what the big deal is:

"We didn't used to take pictures or talk about what we used to do. Now players are posting pictures in the clubhouse in real time ... We need to be cognizant of the 7- and 8-year-olds that have access to your Twitter feed 24/7," he says.

Billy Bean takes a swing. Photo by Billy Bean used with permission.

"If the hazing is disparaging toward women, or the LGBTQ community, or old stereotypes that people used to think were funny about ethnic backgrounds or religious views, that's not funny anymore."

Plenty of players and ex-players have come out against the new policy too, but as far as Bean is concerned, they can suck it up.

"We have an average salary of over $4 million a season," Bean says. "I don't think it's too much to ask of the players to think a little bit before they engage in this tradition."

The league isn't out to be the fun police. Bean says there are plenty of friendly initiations that don't send a harmful message.

He says the New York Yankees rookies recently dressed up as "the baby bombers," an ode to their reputation as a young team full of powerful sluggers.

"That wasn't mean-spirited," he says. "It was creative. It was funny."

The bottom line? No one should be forced to do anything they truly don't want to do.

Since the news, many players have come out in support of "the old way of doing things," which is disappointing to some. But league officials say a lot of other current players are glad about the changes and had complained about being forced to dress in offensive costumes.

This move by the MLB certainly doesn't mean pro sports culture is "fixed." There are currently no active MLB players who openly identify as gay, for example, and the odds of that being the case are astronomically low.

But this new policy is a small step — however small — in the right direction.

Lainey and baby goat Annie. Photo courtesy of Lainey Morse
True

Oftentimes, the journey to our true calling is winding and unexpected. Take Lainey Morse, who went from office manager to creator of the viral trend, Goat Yoga, thanks to her natural affinity for goats and throwing parties.

Back in 2015, Lainey bought a farm in Oregon and got her first goats who she named Ansel and Adams. "Once I got them, I was obsessed," says Lainey. "It was hard to get me off the farm to go do anything else."

Right away, she noticed what a calming presence they had. "Even the way they chew their cud is relaxing to be around because it's very methodical," she says. Lainey was going through a divorce and dealing with a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis at the time, but even when things got particularly hard, the goats provided relief.

"I found it impossible to be stressed or depressed when I was with them."

She started inviting friends up to the farm for what she called "Goat Happy Hour." Soon, the word spread about Lainey's delightful, stress-relieving furry friends. At one point, she auctioned off a child's birthday party at her farm, and the mom asked if they could do yoga with the goats. And lo, the idea for goat yoga was born.

A baby goat on a yoga student. Photo courtesy of Lainey Morse

Goat yoga went viral so much so that by fall of 2016, Lainey was able to quit her office manager job at a remodeling company to manage her burgeoning goat yoga business full-time. Now she has 10 locations nationwide.

Lainey handles the backend management for all of her locations, and loves that side of the business too, even though it's less goat-related. "I still have my own personal Goat Happy Hour every single day so I still get to spend a lot of time with my goats," says Lainey. "I get the best of both worlds."

Lainey with her goat Fabio. Photo courtesy of Lainey Morse

Since COVID-19 hit, her locations have had to close temporarily. She hopes her yoga locations will be able to resume classes in the spring when the vaccine is more widely available. "I think people will need goat yoga more than ever before, because everyone has been through so much stress in 2020," says Lainey.

Major life changes like Lainey's can come around for any number of reasons. Even if they seem out of left field to some, it doesn't mean they're not the right moves for you. The new FOX series "Call Me Kat", which premieres Sunday, January 3rd after NFL and will continue on Thursday nights beginning January 7th, exemplifies that. The show is centered around Kat, a 39-year old single woman played by Mayim Bialik, who quit her math professor job and spent her life's savings to pursue her dreams to open a Cat Café in Louisville, Kentucky.

Jeff Harry started making similar moves when he was just 10-years-old, and kept making them throughout his life. After seeing the movie "Big,"Jeff knew he wanted to play with toys for a living, so he started writing toy companies asking for next steps. He finally got a response when he was a sophomore in high school — the company told him he needed to become a mechanical engineer first.

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