Billy Bean Attends Vatican Conference on Faith and Sport
Billy Bean, Major League Baseball’s (MLB) vice president for social responsibility and inclusion, attended the inaugural invitation-only “Sport at the Service of Humanity” global conference on October 5-7. Launched by and held at the Vatican, Pope Francis greeted participants, telling them that “sport has the power to celebrate our community humanity, regardless of faith, race, culture, belief, gender or identity.”
Calling his experience in Rome “unforgettable,” Bean shared on Facebook that “This conversation is new, but everything great has a beginning. Sports have the power to make the world a better, more accepting and inclusive place for all people regardless of our differences. The Pope’s influence and words of encouragement are humbling to witness.” He continued to say that “The power and potential of sport to lift the human spirit, bring people together regardless of our cultural or economic differences, break down old barriers and instill hope is inspiring.”
Bean also listed the names of other U.S. participants that included: Nick Keller of Beyond Sport United; Joanne Pasternack, executive director of the NFL 49ers Foundation; Donna De Varona, Olympic gold medalist and global ambassador for Special Olympics and her husband John Pinto; Renata Simril, LA84 Foundation CEO and Bean’s MLB collegue, Melanie LeGrande.
Approximately 150 of the world’s top figures in sports, government and religion were in attendance, and the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee were honored for their special role in supporting and promoting the event. The conference is expected, according to Monsignor Melchor Sánchez de Toca Alameda, Vatican secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, “to create a movement that brings in all religions and countries,” adding that “We believe sports can be a powerful tool to make people grow.”
Of all the U.S. professional team sports organizations, MLB has been arguably the most open and supportive toward the LGBT community by bringing back former player Bean, who came out of the closet after retiring from the game. The organization created two new high level positions for him, first as its new ambassador for inclusion and then promoting him to his current position.
For actively changing the MLB culture from within to one of inclusion and acceptance, and for Bean’s positive, low key efforts to work with players, coaches, management and owners, Compete Magazine honored MLB and Billy Bean with a dual Pioneer Award at last year’s Compete Sports Diversity Awards held in Los Angeles.
U.S. Paralympian Allison Jones Engineered Equipment for Other Paralympian
Many know that gold-medal-winning U.S. Paralympic cyclist and skier Allison Jones is a top parathlete. They also may know that the out lesbian, who’s been married to her wife Sara Jarrell since 2014, also served as the flag bearer for Team USA at the Paralympic Games in Rio this summer.
What many don’t know, however, is that she is also a mechanical engineer who works for Titan Robotics in Colorado Springs that offers 3D printing technology. She decided to honor her late father’s creative legacy by designing new cycling parts for athletes needing adaptive equipment.
The two-time gold medalist was born without a femur in her right leg and underwent an above-knee amputation as a baby so she could more easily wear a prosthetic leg. She and her dad, who died in a July plane crash, often collaborated on new mechanical parts to improve her cycling gear. To honor her dad and to pay it forward, she wanted to help her 34-year-old teammate Billy Lister make it to the Rio Paralympics by helping to upgrade his equipment.
Lister had a stroke at 17 that left him partially paralyzed, gradually losing most of his left arm function. Competing in adaptive sports brought him out of his depression but he still had trouble with his left arm. It would tighten and cause the arm to move involuntarily, ultimately producing resistance and breaking his concentration. Jones helped design and print an aerodynamic tray for Lister that not only holds his arm in place but also has extra padding on the end that hits a pressure point that relaxes his left hand and arm.
In an interview with Colorado Springs station KRDO, Lister credited the 3D print technology for helping him make the U.S. team. Calling it a “game-changer,” Lister, who was able to participate in four Paralympic events as a result of the new tray, went on to say that “With this arm perch, it puts my arm in a secure position and doesn’t allow it to move around. It takes the uncontrollable nature of my arm out of the equation and allows me to ride more comfortably and a lot faster.”
Congratulations to Kicker Kelly Macnamara
Kelly Macnamara, who became the first female football player in her school’s history last year, just showed her true competitive abilities by leveling a returner in a recent game. She is the kicker for the North Penn High School’s Knights football team in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, located just northwest of Philadelphia.
She gets no special treatment nor has she ever played football. But when the previous kicker graduated, she tried out for the position, counting on her leg strength developed by playing soccer since age 5, to add value to the team.
When the opposing kick returner was making a big return play down the sideline, she ran from center field and leveled him, sending him out of bounds. The Knights ended the game with a 33-14 win over Central Bucks, moving their season to a 7-0. A sophomore, Macnamara is the fourth ranked kicker in the state.