May 5, 2013

Steve Solloway: Gay athlete in Maine finds he's not alone after all

(Continued from page 3)

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James Nutter, a former University of Southern Maine baseball player, revisits the USM baseball field in Gorham on Wednesday. He is now in demand as a speaker about the gay experience in team sports.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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In high school action at Hadlock Field in 2007, James Nutter dives for second as short stop Matt Powers catches a pickoff throw.

2007 Telegram file photo/Gordon Chibroski

Additional Photos Below

Plus, the recent events at Rutgers, New Jersey's state university, had primed Nutter's audience. The students and faculty were angry and horrified at the physical abuse and homophobic slurs men's basketball coach Mike Rice used on his players in practice. Rice was fired.

Gerard saw Nutter's story on five months ago and decided he had to come to New Jersey. Gerard mentioned a speaker's fee and Nutter balked initially. He wasn't doing this for money.

"I think he's about to be discovered," said Gerard. "He can earn a lot more than the pittance we were able to give him."

Nutter has been busy. He was flown to San Francisco this winter for a conference. You Can Play uses him. Al Bean has asked Nutter to speak to the USM coaching staffs this summer. Other gay rights groups and advocates have lined up. A baseball player at MIT in Cambridge read Nutter's story, called a meeting of his teammates and coaches in February and came out. Nutter, he told media outlets in Boston, was his inspiration.

"How do I feel when I hear that? Kind of weird, actually," said Nutter. "But that's why I'm talking, hoping to help someone."

"There's a huge difference in James," said his father. "His confidence is strong. He's much happier. The Washington Post called (Wednesday). The Huffington Post, too. They want to know what he has to say (about Jason Collins and gays in locker rooms). I never imagined my son talking like this.

"I do know this is bringing back all the memories. It's too bad this didn't happen sooner."

Bob Nutter can't forget he nearly lost a son who feared letting the world know who he really was.

James Nutter has work lined up with a catering company this summer. He intends to resume classes, this time at York County Community College. He'll switch his major to human behavior. He may look into playing baseball again in the Twilight League.

A straight friend talked with Nutter recently about having a drink together. Maybe at a gay bar?

"He asked me if someone would try to hit on him. I said, 'You're a good-looking guy. It could happen."'

Nutter's friend looked stricken. What should he do if that happened?

"Just tell them you're straight. They'll know they're wasting their time."

Nutter laughed. It felt good to live again.

Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

Twitter: SteveSolloway

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Additional Photos

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James Nutter, at left, poses in May 2007, when he was Kennebunk's baseball pitcher.

2007 Telegram file photo/Jack Milton

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James Nutter sports his USM team uniform. Once fearful of revealing his gay identity, he is now a role model and mentor for others.

Courtesy of University of Southern Maine

Greg Monroe, Jason Collins
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Last week, the NBA’s Jason Collins, left, became the first active player in one of the four major U.S. professional sports leagues to reveal he’s gay. For Kennebunk’s James Nutter, it was “a great day.”

2013 file photo/The Associated Press

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