HRC Honors MLB’s Lauren Verrusio with The Individual Leadership Award

Lauren Verrusio was a walk-on to the Division I Softball Team at Binghamton University, where she was a three-year captain, President of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and represented the school at the NCAA Leadership Conference. As a child, her dad handed her her first glove just as she learned to walk. She then made her way to becoming the only girl on a Little League team, so working with MLB has been both a personal and professional achievement. Now working at MLB, she handles entertainment publicity within the Business PR team, expanding the reach and exposure of players, events, initiatives and more, in non-traditional ways. Working with baseball players on fashion shoots or producing the MLB Fan Cave Concert Series has enabled her to continue to build her career in fresh and fun ways, engage with various industries to build cross-promotional platforms, and to learn and grow each day.

As she was recently awarded the Individual Leadership Award by the Human Rights Campaign for distinguished  LGBT-related work, she spoke with Athlete Ally Outreach Director Sam Marchiano about her efforts in the space.

Q: Congratulations on being awarded the Individual Leadership Award by the Human Rights Campaign for distinguished LGBT-related work. What does this honor mean to you and why have worked so hard for LGBT rights?

A: Thanks so much for this wonderful opportunity! I began volunteering with HRC about six years ago with the Community Events team and now am the HRC Greater NY Steering Committee Co-Chair as well as sit on the National Board of Governors. I believe in the organization and the great work that we do to ensure equality is gained throughout the country at both the national and the local levels.  I’ve worked passionately for these rights because I believe, above all else, that love is love, and love is a beautiful feeling. No one should ever be discriminated against or treated as a second class citizen for simply loving another human being.

Q: In sports, we are seeing more and more athletes coming out and more allies speaking out. Why do you think LGBT inclusion in sports has gained so much momentum in recent years?

A: This is a direct reflection of the spirit and momentum taking place within our society today.  There are more LGBT people represented in film and TV, corporate brands are building workplace task forces to ensure equality is achieved within their employee offerings, and people at all levels are speaking out for change. While the freedom to love is still met with adversity in some places and too many young LGBT people across the country live in fear, I am confident that with each step, we are getting closer and closer. When a sports hero lends his support to this movement or is honest about who he loves, it provides a strong voice and diverse perspective for all fans.  Sports is another — and hugely effective — avenue that provides great leadership within the positive momentum we are experiencing.

Q: Baseball has long been recognized for its leadership with Jackie Robinson crossing the color barrier in 1947. Does advancing LGBT inclusion in this era  have similar societal impact?

A: Major League Baseball prides itself in being a social institution.  We recognize that we have a responsibility to continue to be leaders on advancing a diverse and equal playing field both on and off the field.  We continue to grow programs like Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), support organizations like GLAAD and Athlete Ally, host a Diversity Business Summit and much more.  We understand the platform and reach we have and will continue to be a leader and create a positive impact.

Q: With Jason Collins playing for the New Jersey Nets and Michael Sam making his bid to be the first openly gay player in the NFL, many people wonder when MLB will have openly gay players as well. Do you think that will happen in the near future?

If only I didn’t hang up my cleats after college…. I have full confidence that all areas of sport and life will continue to grow in diversity and equality. And I cannot wait for the day where defining who you love isn’t front page news. It simply just is.