Unsporting behavior at the ballpark

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A voice inside my head is telling me to just let the whole thing drop, but I am weak.

So, here goes.

The issue is the “Out at the Park” night last Sunday at Petco Park in San Diego, home of the Padres.

A large and well-known gay advocacy group known as San Diego Pride scarfed up 1,100 tickets for volunteers and supporters and headed out to watch the Padres play the Braves in what became known in shorthand as Pride Night.

The group announced the outing (yes, a play on words) on its website, knowing it would give its opponents a chance to plan countermeasures.


Which they did, in two different but odd ways. At least, odd to me. Maybe it’ll make perfect sense to you.

First off, a group of about 40 ballpark concessionaires provided by Set Free Ministries in El Cajon didn’t show up for work as a silent protest.

The ministry, which focuses on helping some of society’s most hard-luck cases, had notified its contractors well in advance of its intentions, says Set Free official J.D. Loveland. He was careful to say the action wasn’t a walkout or a boycott -- as had been reported leading up to the game -- and also made it clear when we talked Monday that he didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

Loveland had said quite a bit in Monday’s San Diego Union-Tribune, however. “Homosexuality is a sin, and promoting it with a Pride Night, when thousands of kids are also going to be [at the ballpark], is wrong,” he said. “So, we took a moral stand.”

Why he suddenly wanted to go mum when we talked the day after the game wasn’t made clear, but a Pride official theorizes it’s because Set Free Ministries gets federal housing funds.

The second prong of the protest came from about 75 people, not connected to Set Free Ministries, who met fans outside the gates before the game and, according to the Union-Tribune, tried to dissuade them from attending. The newspaper reported that it was hard to judge the success of their efforts, other than noting attendance was listed at 41,026, about 1,600 under capacity.


Here’s my translation of the protest: How dare people other than heterosexuals show up for a baseball game.

Bear in mind the Pride contingent didn’t make speeches, didn’t hand out leaflets and, as far as I know, didn’t start the wave.

They didn’t even pick someone to throw out the first pitch.

What they did was go to a baseball game. And saw the group’s name flashed on the scoreboard, as the Padres do for other large groups.

We’ve played this game before, of course. Any time a Pride-like group rears its head in public, someone takes a shot at it.

Gay marriage is a fair subject for debate. So, too, I suppose, are gay support groups in the schools. I’ll hear people out on gay adoptions.

But bashing gays for going to a baseball game?

Yes, I know, it’s the sin, not the sinner. And whatever you do, don’t serve them a hot dog and Coke.


By the way, the next time someone tells you it’s the sin and not the sinner, ask them if they have any gay friends. If they do, have them ask those friends if they grasp that distinction.

The Union-Tribune reported that the director of the protest was Christian activist James Hartline. His website directs viewers to the “amazing life and death struggle James Hartline fought to leave the homosexual lifestyle.”

The site suggests a $10 donation for the 23-page booklet. Hell hath no fury like the reformed zealot.

I couldn’t track down Hartline on Monday for his day-after assessment. But in an earlier blog posting, he lamented that no other pastors would join his protest.

“The greatest pain in my Christian walk,” he wrote, “is the refusal by San Diego pastors to join with me at any of my events when I am fighting for our kids. I have sent out dozens and dozens of requests to San Diego pastors and, so far, none have agreed to come and join the rally.”


That would lead an introspective person to some fairly obvious conclusions. I’ll leave it to local San Diego pastors to e-mail those conclusions to Hart-line.


I did reach Ron deHarte, the executive director of San Diego Pride. He said the Petco evening was fun, except for the protests. Disappointing, he called them. San Diego Pride’s annual parade and festival are later this month, and deHarte knows those will also draw protests.

But Sunday night was about baseball.

And it was kicked off in fine fashion, he said, with a stirring rendition of the national anthem.

Sung on that night by the Gay Men’s Chorus of San Diego.

Oh, brother. I can just hear Hartline and Loveland muttering, And they call this our national pastime?

Dana Parsons’ column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He can be reached at (714) 966-7821 or at An archive of his recent columns is at