In this day and age, it’s takes a lot for someone to come out. Matt Kaplon, star catcher for Drew University’s baseball team, kept his sexual orientation a secret from his teammates for over 3 seasons. After spending 21 years of his life struggling with his sexuality, he finally came clean to his teammates about being gay.
Kaplon has starred as catcher for Drew University for three seasons, totalling 97 games. He is also ranked third on his team, with a batting average of .327, throwing out over 13 runners in 29 starts to be exact. In high school, he was voted MVP during his senior year at Palisades High School in Bergen County, NJ.
It was last week, when Kaplon chose to inform his head coach, Brian Hirschberg, that he was gay, and his coach did not seem at all surprised by this news. Hirschberg told Outsports, “He’s as close to a family member as anyone I’ve ever coached. He’s like a younger brother to me. When Matt shared his story with me, I respected him more, if that’s even possible.”
With help from his coach, Kaplon decided to tell his teammates over the weekend, before the start of baseball season, because he didn’t want to play any games without his teammates knowing exactly who he is. This past Sunday, his team got together for a community service event, when Kaplon took the time to address his teammates, telling them simply, “I’m gay.”
Kaplon said, “Growing up in sports, you kind of hear this stigma that being gay isn’t OK. That traveled with me into college.” Outsports added:
Part of that distinct message about being gay in sports was the language around baseball. “Faggot,” “sissy,” and other homophobic slurs have been present in the sports world for decades. High school baseball in New Jersey is no different.
"There were the comments I’d hear on the field. It wasn’t directed at anyone and no one meant anything by it, but it meant something to me. It further solidified in my head that it wasn’t OK and that people were against it and they were against having a gay friend or a teammate." Those comments have continued their impact on Drew. Even Hirschberg admits he’s heard homophobic language on his team, including the word “faggot."
"Having played myself and seeing the climate we’re in now as a sports culture, it’s not easy to be a gay athlete,” Hirschberg said. “It takes a lot of courage I think to come out. I’m still learning a lot of this myself.”
It was during an annual trip to Provincetown, Mass, that Kaplon became much more comfortable with who he was. Kaplon told Outsports: “Being able to go to P’town every August and spend the month there and see gay people right in front of me while I was still grappling with it, it was good for me. It proved to me that I wasn’t the only person who was gay. But I still felt like I was the only athlete.” Matt did not hesitate in reaching out to basketball player Derek Schell, after reading about his coming out story this past October. OutSports reported the following:
“Words cannot describe what Derek has meant to me,” Kaplon said. “He saved my life.” Kaplon finally found the strength to come out to friends and family after Thanksgiving break last November. A young woman in his circle of friends had pursued him for years to no avail. Some of his friends began wondering if he liked women at all. Driving home one night with his high school friend Lewis, the question finally came up: “Are you gay? I lied to my best friend about myself,” he said. “It made me think a lot about who I was and who I was going to be.”After that, Kaplon told Lewis that he was gay. And it was his friend’s positive response that gave Kaplon the confidence to be who he really was. Keep Up With PopWrapped On The Web!