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Openly gay umpire talks sports, sexuality barriers

Former MLB official brings message to Madison students

MADISON, Wis. - Dave Pallone paced the front row of Anderson Auditorium, decked out in his Boston ball cap, with the same passion behind his message. 

He detailed his first Red Sox game at age 11, one of the loves of his life and then losing him to an accident, his countless games making calls for the MLB, and the double life that wore on him for decades of living his dream.

"I knew right then and there that I had to tell the world who Dave Pallone truly was. No pun intended, but I needed to set the record straight about my life and all about who I was," Pallone said.

Pallone told the rows of Edgewood College students about that spring back in 1988, before most of them were even born.  His deepest and darkest secret was revealed, and his family and friends found out in the newspaper.

"Baseball found out that I was gay, and they abruptly fired me," Pallone explained.  "They took my childhood dream for no other reason than for who I was.  It was as if someone came into my body and ripped my heart right out of me."

Since then, Pallone wrote his autobiography, a book that catapulted him into the nationwide speaking circuit.  Edgewood College was the latest stop, but he keeps preaching acceptance, pushing for a change in any sexuality stigmas in sports.

The talk is timely, with the prospect of the first openly gay NFL pick in this year's draft.

Edgewood College Athletic Director Al Brisack wanted Pallone's visit to spark conversation between players.

"That's our job.  I mean, our job is to not only teach them the skill of the game, but also to educate them and prepare them for life," Brisack said.

Brisack said he has to tackle new issues in collegiate sports almost every year.  For instance, he mentioned the NCAA is starting to look at how to integrate transgender athletes into teams.

"To be able to present that in a way with someone who 'was a jock' is going to open their eyes and help them understand a little bit, oh they're just like me, just have different things that they like or dislike or look different," Brisack said.

VIDEO: Openly gay umpire breaks sports, sexuality barriers

The talk hit close to home for tennis player Kristen Boone.  Boone's brother opened up to his family about his homosexuality in the last year.  She believed it will only take one professional athlete coming out as gay to make it possible and probable for others to do so.

"It creates this sense that everybody has to be one type of person, and you're not really being yourself, and they are being somebody that fits the quota of sports or society, and you don't really get to know that person," Boone said. "And it's so sad that they are having to hide what's really them and who they are as a person."

Pallone continues to tour the country, targeting college-age athletes with his story.

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