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Billy Bean’s “Secret” twist of fate

By S. Wentworth

Former Major League Baseball player, author of "Going the Other Way: Lessons from a life in and out of Major League Baseball" and ardent civil rights activist Billy Bean opened up to RealJock about his new television series “I’ve Got a Secret” on the Game Show Network (nightly at 11pm EST), his post-baseball exercise regimen and his secrets for relationship success.

RealJock: You know a lot about secrets after a baseball career in the closet, so it’s interesting that your new TV show exposes other people’s secrets. How do you feel about that twist of fate?

Billy Bean: I believe life is full of crazy coincidences and twists of fate. It's funny to think of all the years I was living a secret. I guess being in the position to guess other people's fun secrets on TV is ironic, but I try to keep it whimsical and surely not as serious as my life was when I was playing baseball and still so deeply closeted.

RealJock: Are you really good at guessing people’s secrets?

Billy Bean: I think I read body language very well, maybe from so many years of batting and trying to read the mind of the pitcher who was opposing me. If you concentrate, it’s amazing how much people will give away characteristics that, at least for me, help me zero in on their secret.

RealJock: What attracted you to “I’ve Got a Secret”? How were you selected?

Billy Bean: I had no idea they were recreating the show. I was asked to audition by a good friend named Andy Strausser. He was doing some casting for the show. I just happened to be in Los Angeles at the time he called working on the development of my life story becoming a movie. So I thought, “why not?” It has turned out to be a great experience. I have met some really generous people over the past year or so connected with the show.

RealJock: What’s your favorite thing about the game show? How does doing a game show compare to playing professional baseball or being a real estate mogul?

Billy Bean: Well, I think I like the pressure of live TV and not being scripted by a writer. We are responsible for what comes out of our mouths and keeping the audience interested. The spontaneous pressure is much like sports because you never know what is going to happen next.

RealJock: If you were a contestant on “I’ve Got a Secret,” what would be your secret? Do you have any left?

Billy Bean: I’m not sure I have many secrets left, since I have been a public figure for the past six years. However, I guess the fact that I am a big softie when it comes to sentimental love songs or movies. I love that stuff. I guess having to be so tough for so many years, it was always a secret escape for me that allowed me to release a lot of my emotions that I buried for so many years.

RealJock: Billy Bean and Billy Beane are both dead sexy, smart and successful. How do you tell yourselves apart?

Billy Bean: Well, one is straight and one isn't. So that is a start. Actually, it's amazing how many people do get us mixed up. He is from San Diego, and I played there for three years, so that really screwed with people's minds. We are both tall and have dark hair, so in a uniform I guess we did look a lot alike. However, I am a lefty and he was a righty, so true baseball fans would never get us mixed up. He is such a huge success in the game today, and since I was teammates with him in 1988 I (in Detroit and Toledo minor leagues), I know what a great guy he is, so I don't mind being mixed up with him. I hope he feels the same way. I have many mutual friends in baseball who keep telling me to give him a call. I am sure we'd have a lot of laughs catching up.

RealJock: Post-baseball, how are you staying fit? How has your body changed?

Billy Bean: I've gotten older. I’ve learned the hard way that the body just can't do the things it used to do when you are in your 20s. I still hit the gym every chance I get. I play tennis about four days a week. Believe me, the pounding takes its toll. However, I love the sport. It fulfills me much in the same way that baseball did. Now, I do it for fun instead of a job, which takes away a lot of the pressure. I hope to play as long as I live. It's fun to try and improve and play against players who have been playing their whole lives. They don't like it when a baseball player gives them a tough match.

RealJock: How often do you workout? What role does fitness play in your life today?

Billy Bean: I try to hit the gym about three times a week. I'd play tennis every single day if my body could handle it. Family, work, dogs, friends, traveling all around the country and just life itself keeps me so busy. I always feel like I am two or three weeks away from being my best. But I am lucky to have so much going on, so it's a good trade off.

RealJock: What’s your training regimen like? What are your workout goals?

Billy Bean: My regimen is pushing myself beyond my previous limits, whatever that is. My goal would be to regain the fitness level I had as a major leaguer. But that is unrealistic, so I just keep dreaming.

RealJock: Do you have any workout tips or secrets you’d like to share?

Billy Bean: Sure. If you want to be thin or lean, go to bed hungry every night. The diet (amount of food you eat and when) is everything. It sucks. Some days it seems worth it, but most days, I would do anything for some French fries.

RealJock:Do you use any supplements / vitamins or follow any special diet?

Billy Bean: I just take a good multi-vitamin and lots of vitamin C. My partner, Efrain, is a great cook, so I always eat good home-cooked food. I never, ever eat fast food. Really, there is no such thing as a diet, just discipline with your portions. You have to drink a ton of water as well. Most people get way too much sugar in what they drink.

RealJock: What do you do to pamper yourself?

Billy Bean:Moisturize and massage. Plus great food with my best friends is my favorite way to spoil myself.

RealJock: Do you have any advice for athletes struggling with coming out? What’s the best piece of advice you got when you were considering coming out?

Billy Bean: I think the best thing I could tell them is to take it one person at a time. Start with someone you trust more than anyone in the world. I don't want to ever see an athlete discriminated against during competition. So we have to work very very hard to make the world see us for our ability to compete and not our sexuality.

When I was playing, I thought coming out meant a press conference and TV cameras. I was so wrong. If I had trusted one person and realized the world would not have ended when my secret was shared, I am sure I would have become the player I was born to be. I'll never know how my fears and ignorance held me back as a player and shortened my career.

RealJock: What have you learned since coming out?

Billy Bean: The truth truly does set you free.

RealJock: You’ve been with your partner a long time, what’s the key to your success?

Billy Bean:Efrain and I have been together more than 10 years now. The key is being yourself and trusting each other, even during the hardest times.

Ultimately, you must decide if you want to share your life or be on your own. There is nothing wrong with either decision. For me, I love to share everything. Efrain has seen me go through so many things. He always has been my biggest supporter. We have grown through so many ups and downs, but for some reason, we always end up closer after the tough times.

I was very lucky to find him. He puts up with a lot of sports on TV, lots of tennis matches and plane trips, but when we are together we always have a lot of fun.

QUESTIONS FOR BILLY
Got a question for Billy? Write to shannon@realjock.com. Billy Bean's new Q&A column on RealJock debuts in July. Stay tuned. For more on Billy, visit billybean.com.