JUNE 2022  |  ISSUE 27

Bryan Ruby is many things to both the Nashville community and the world of sports: a professional baseball player, a country music singer/songwriter, the founder of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and a pioneer for LGBTQ+ representation in sports. He has also made history as the only active professional baseball player who is out as gay.
“I’ve always been a baseball guy,” said Ruby, who is currently a member of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. The 26-year-old is the newest Community Advisor for Music City Baseball.
Ruby picked up the sport at age six and continued through college, where he played in six different countries overseas and 19 states throughout the U.S. Originally from Pennsylvania, Ruby moved to Nashville three years ago during the offseason to pursue a music career. He now claims Nashville as his adopted home and is rooting for the city’s MLB efforts to come to fruition.
“It just seems like a no brainer that Nashville should have an MLB team. I want to live here for the rest of my life, so that's something I want to get behind.”
Last year, Ruby made the decision to come out to his teammates and the baseball community.
“I was definitely very nervous to come out. No doubt about it, looking around the baseball world and not seeing other people like me was scary,” said Ruby. “I didn't have a hero growing up actively playing Major League Baseball that was living out and proud, like me. I was worried. I thought, there's a 50/50 shot I would get up to bat and get hit in the face with a 93 MPH fastball…Obviously, there are LGBT people in all walks of life – why not baseball? I guess nobody was speaking up about it. But, at the same time, I was told if I ever came out, I’d lose my roster spot and never be able to get a job in baseball.’
Once his story became public, Ruby was encouraged by the show of support from teammates and fans.
“It was crazy – I did one interview about this, and the next day I was on the cover of USA Today’s sports section,” said Ruby. “The reception was super positive. People in the stands waved a little rainbow flag and my teammates told me very clearly that they have my back. It just shows that different people can coexist in our sport.”
An impactful memory that stood out to Ruby was an exchange with an opposing pitcher who tipped his cap toward him ‘Derek Jeter style’ after he got a hit.
“Out of all the things – the articles, the media, the opportunity to now become a community advocate in the baseball world – the most meaningful thing for me was to get that peer-to-peer recognition and respect on the field. Then we went back to playing, business as usual. I got the chills because it was like, ‘Okay, now I can just play ball like I always wanted to.’”
Ruby also shared his excitement to represent the Nashville Stars as a Community Advisor and plans to foster connections between the LGBT Chamber of Commerce and his nonprofit called "Proud to Be in Baseball."
“It's showing that representation and being an advocate. Nashville is a growing city and a diverse city. What better way to catalyze interests than to show that – especially with the name of the team, and the history behind that – this could be a team for/that all kinds of people can get behind.”
Proud to be in Baseball offers the baseball community a space for support and empowerment. Ruby and his co-founders have been contacted by all types of people working in the baseball industry, including players, coaches, people in management, and athletic trainers.
“Accidental activist is how I describe it. I’ve co-founded it with two other baseball players who messaged me after I told my story. We joke about it really starting as a website, and over the course of the last six months we've evolved into an actual support network for LGBTQ+ people in baseball,” said Ruby. “About 16 million people play baseball in America. Statistically, there could be a number of those people who have always been [in the closet] because of the environment in baseball. That's what we're trying to do – make the environment a little bit better for everybody.”
While he’s been active with his organization and baseball, Ruby is taking a new step in his music career. He has a new country music single called “Left Field,” which premiered over the weekend on Sirius XM Country Pride Radio and will be available via streaming platforms on June 8. Ruby has a month full of shows ahead starting with CMA Fest to promote his first single as an artist.
“It's a feel good, baseball country-type song,” said Ruby. “The song itself is not at all about baseball. It’s the song that I wish I could have heard as a kid, but I never had. You know, all the best things come out of left field. ‘Be who you are, do what you can’ – and it all ties back to our charity because I’ve dedicated 100% of the song’s proceeds to benefit the young kids in baseball that we support at Proud to be in Baseball.”

From the outside looking in, Ericka Payne-Clark’s classroom at Balmoral Ridgeway Elementary School in Memphis may seem a bit out of the ordinary. Rather than restricting students to learn traditionally at a desk, Payne-Clark encourages her students to move around the classroom while she teaches and work in a space that's best suited for them, even if that’s under a table or sitting on the steps she has in her room.
“We have to know how our students learn best and sitting at a desk and a table is sometimes not it.”
Payne-Clark teaches first through fifth-grade students who are part of the gifted program, known as CLUE which stands for Creative Learning in a Unique Environment. Students in the Memphis-Shelby County District school are screened yearly to qualify for the program and once admitted, leave their regular classrooms to meet with Payne-Clark in small groups for a few hours a week.
After 15 years of teaching middle school English, Payne-Clark said she was ready for a change. Now finishing out her 19th year at Balmoral Ridgeway Elementary School, she says she's found exactly what she was looking for with the gifted program.
Her new classroom is in an open-space school, meaning there are no walls and no doors to the classrooms. Although some people say that it’s more difficult to teach and learn in this kind of environment, Payne disagrees.
"You can see around the entire school building because of it. It's different, but it works for our students".
Payne-Clark said that “we make sure that our students are engaged totally” so that they stay focused throughout the day, which she does by incorporating hands-on activities and movement. By exploring a little spontaneity in class, her students are more engaged, because they’re experiencing something new and are not as restrained.
“I just think it's important to allow them to be free, you know, and I think that's how we often times get the best from them,” said Payne-Clark.
The CLUE program allows students to excel in a less restricted environment and build further on what they are learning in their main classes. While her lessons still follow the state standards, the gifted program allows her to push students to "think outside the box".
“The fact that these students are gifted means they're not limited to what they can do and I'm not limited on how far I can push them in class [...] they're so excited about the activities that we do in class, and studies we engage in and topics they haven't been exposed to.”
The CLUE program gives students mentors and role-models, which Payne-Clark said she hopes will help to motivate and support her students as they move forward in their education. Having organizations such as the Nashville Stars to look up to, Payne-Clark said is key in showing her students that “the sky’s the limit”. Having a Major League Baseball team inspired by a former Negro Leagues team would offer valuable opportunities in education, especially as we celebrate Juneteenth later this month.
“Students know that many years ago African Americans were limited to many rights and opportunities. It is important that they now take advantage since opportunities are now endless.”
Payne-Clark said she’s focused on making memorable experiences and having fun with her students while educating them. In the future, she hopes to continue to create these memorable, engaging, and hands-on moments for her kids to remember and build skills they can apply as they grow older. After leaving the CLUE program, Payne-Clark hopes her students will continue on to enroll in STEM programs in middle schools, high school, and beyond.


Our team sponsored a songwriters’ round at the Bluebird Cafe, which benefitted ACM Lifting Lives. A special thanks to Buzz Brainard, Dave Turnbull, Barry Zito, Erik Dylan, and everyone who helped make this such a special event.


The Music City Grand Prix is just a couple of months away! The Stars sponsored a hole for their golf scramble on May 10 at Old Hickory Country Club. The Grand Prix is scheduled for August 5-7.


JR Harrison was an intern with the Stars for the Spring 2022 semester. He was also a member of the Vanderbilt club baseball team. We were thrilled to support him as he had an opportunity to throw out the first pitch on May 17 against Middle Tennessee State University.


The Nashville Stars Youth Foundation’s 13u and 17u teams were both in action this past weekend. The 13u team won their tournament, while the 17u team finished 2nd in the Music City Classic in Nashville. Congrats to both teams!

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