.Upfront: Huffman’s pick and stomp out homophobia!

Huffman’s pick

“I’ve been waiting for that question for months!” So exclaimed second-term U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, when I got him on the phone recently. The question: Who are you supporting for president in 2016?

The answer may surprise readers who have already taken note of the fact that there’s a pretty heady battle shaping up in the Democratic Party over the presidential campaigns of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Sanders has been getting huge, boisterous crowds around the country with his fiery blasts of populist rhetoric and anti-corporate, up-the-people messaging. The knuckle-draggers over at the National Review are taking Sanders and his message so seriously, they even called him a Nazi.

Huffman is a progressive Democrat whose congressional district comprises a region of the country so distinctive in the American political imagination that George Bush was once reduced to calling U.S.-born jihadi John Walker Lindh “some misguided Marin hot-tubber.”

So readers may be surprised that Huffman is all-in for Hillary Clinton, many months before the Democratic primaries get into gear. The Iowa caucus kicks it off next February; the California primary is June 7.

“Sanders is bringing some great points to the discussion,” Huffman says, “but at the end of the day, our Democratic nominee is going to be Hillary Clinton, and I’m going to support her.”

Huffman is pragmatic even as he throws a populist cheer in the direction of Sanders, a Vermont socialist who ran for Senate as an Independent, and who caucuses with the Democratic Party.

“Bernie is getting great crowds and he’s getting people excited on the left—that’s a good thing. But Hillary Clinton is going to dominate all the primaries, she’s going to start racking up delegates, and it will be clear, early on, that our nominee is going to be Secretary Clinton. But I think the good news for all of us is that she seems to be embracing some of the things Bernie is saying as well.”

All will be clear in a year. The Democratic National Convention goes down in Philadelphia next July 25–28.

So who is Huffman handicapping for the Republican Party nomination? No surprise there: “I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for Donald Trump,” says Huffman, “but we’ll probably wind up with someone more like Scott Walker.”—Tom Gogola

Stomp out homophobia!

When the Sonoma Stompers’ Sean Conroy pitched a 7-0 shutout against the Vallejo Admirals in June, he made history, and it wasn’t necessarily for his stellar performance on the field: Conroy is the first openly gay, actively playing professional baseball player.

Last week, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, announced that they would acquire Conroy’s jersey, his hat, a baseball, rainbow-colored arm warmers and socks and the signed team roster from the June 25 Pride Night game.

“When I found out I was going to be in the Hall of Fame it was definitely unexpected,” Conroy says. “I feel honored that they recognized the whole team and the way in which they supported me and each other that night.”

Conroy is a native of Clifton Park, N.Y. and a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), where he broke school records for his pitching excellence: In 33 starts at RPI, he went 21-7 with an earned run average of 2.07.

At the June 25 game, Stompers players wore the rainbow-colored socks and arm warmers to show support for Conroy. At the end of the game, his teammates ran out to home plate and hugged him. Fans of all ages flooded the field, asking for autographs.

The Hall of Fame’s announcement comes just as the Milwaukee Brewers’ first baseman David Denson came out as the first openly gay Major League Baseball player.

In the late 1970s, legendary L.A. Dodgers player Glenn Burke came out privately to his teammates and staff. However, Burke came out publicly as gay after retiring from the pros in the 1980s.

Gay baseball fans are elated, including Ken Rogers, a fan who attended the Stompers Pride Night game. “Baseball has always been a great game, but never complete for me,” says Rogers, whose own father was scouted by the Yankees for his pitching skills. He always felt a deep love for the game, but somewhat of a disconnect, as he never saw gay players on the field until Conroy—who Rogers credits with “changing that” and making him feeling more connected to America’s favorite pastime.

“It feels like the game finally loves me back,” Rogers says. “Thanks to Sean Conroy and to professional baseball for helping my world to feel a little more authentic.”—Sarah Stierch

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