-- LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The St. Louis Cardinals said they are taking allegations from a former pitcher in the organization that he quit baseball because of anti-gay comments "very seriously."
Tyler Dunnington, who is gay, told Outsports.com he did not come out while he was pitching for the Cardinals in rookie and Class A baseball in 2014 but eventually left baseball after overhearing derogatory comments from teammates.
"I was also one of the unfortunate closeted gay athletes who experienced years of homophobia in the sport I loved," Dunnington wrote in an email to the website. "I was able to take most of it with a grain of salt but towards the end of my career I could tell it was affecting my relationships with people, my performance, and my overall happiness.
"I experienced both coaches and players make remarks on killing gay people during my time in baseball, and each comment felt like a knife to my heart. I was miserable in a sport that used to give me life, and ultimately I decided I needed to hang up my cleats for my own sanity."
Dunnington, 24, spent most of his career with the Cardinals organization at rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He left the organization after the 2014 season and retired before 2015 spring training.
The Cardinals said they will look into Dunnington's allegations and work with MLB ambassador for inclusion Billy Bean, a former major league player who came out as gay after his playing days were over. No active major leaguer has ever publicly come out of the closet.
"This is very disappointing and our hope is that every player, staff member and employee feels that they are treated equally and fairly," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said in a statement. "Given the nature of these allegations, I will certainly look into this further."
Bean told ESPN that he spent time with Dunnington last week at an MLB Diversity Summit and was introduced to him through the Outsports author who wrote the story.
"Obviously, every professional athlete has heard some disparaging comments about the LGBT community, which is why this work is so challenging to try to change that," Bean said. "The only way we can change that is by being strong examples for people. Until players are able to be 100 percent comfortable with who they are, we have to work harder and harder off the field."
Bean, who spoke with Mozeliak on Wednesday morning, said he doesn't fault the Cardinals organization or suspect that officials have fostered a climate of intolerance. He said Mozeliak has been particularly encouraging of his work.
"Baseball is a huge sport, and a lot of people who are part of that organization from the top down know what the Cardinals stand for," Bean said. "My first call today was to make sure I could be a resource for John. He said, 'Absolutely,' and he wants to make sure everyone knows that's something they don't stand for."
In August Milwaukee Brewers minor leaguer David Denson became the first member of an MLB organization to come out as gay.