When pitcher and 28th-round draft pick Tyler Dunnington decided to leave baseball behind, he sent the Cardinals an email to alert them, suggesting student loans and debt as the drivers behind his sudden retirement. He quickly received phone calls from minor-league coordinators and other officials to ask if he needed help, someone to talk to first, anything to inform his choice.

“Most players don’t leave on their own,” said John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations. “We usually break their dreams.”

Despite the calls, Dunnington did not give his real reason.

That came later.

This past weekend, as protestors and counter protestors gathered outside Busch Stadium, the Cardinals hosted their first Pride Night at the ballpark, and their former farmhand Dunnington was invited to attend as a guest of Mozeliak’s. In March 2016, with an article for Outsports.com, Dunnington revealed he was a gay man and described several distasteful incidents in college and the minors he experienced. That spurred the Cardinals to investigate and address some internal practices that may have contributed to a hostile environment Dunnington would say drove him from the game. Sitting in the Cardinals’ dugout this past Friday and talking to reporters from the Post-Dispatch and Outsports.com for the first time in detail since his article, Dunnington thought again about what he’s learned after coming out – and his view of the clubhouse looking back from this new vantage.

“I never felt like I had someone that I could reach out to,” Dunnington said. “I also felt like I sort of prejudged everyone else in regards to what their reaction might be. Once I came out the majority of messages and calls that I got were from former players, minor league and college. I guess I think I judged people thinking they were going to judge me. It turns out that wasn’t the case. It was a few people who would have had an issue with it, potentially.

“In hindsight, it would have been OK to be an openly gay baseball player,” Dunnington continued. “And that’s what I wanted to convey with the stories – I feel comfortable coming back into this sport, whether it was to play or to work in baseball. There wasn’t an issue with being around the game, once I came out.”

In the article for Outsports.com, Dunnington asserted that he “experienced both coaches and players (making) remarks on killing gay people during my time in baseball.” In the days after the article was first published, he clarified that with The Post-Dispatch and Major League Baseball that he was describing a specific incident in college. Indeed, Colorado Mesa College would issue a statement and an apology.