Brewers' Josh Hader apologizes to team for tweets; will have sensitivity training

Hader's teammates watch on as he expresses remorse (0:59)

Josh Hader regrets his offensive tweets from when he was younger and gets support from teammates as they enter the room and stand behind him. (0:59)

MILWAUKEE -- For the first time since Josh Hader's All-Star dream turned into a nightmare, the Milwaukee Brewers' flame-throwing lefty faced his teammates, asking for their support.

They appeared to be more than willing to provide it.

During Tuesday's All-Star Game, Hader's first as a big leaguer, tweets he sent as a 17-year-old surfaced -- messages filled with racist, homophobic and misogynist sentiments. Hader discovered the reporting of the years-old messages after his outing, and he answered hard questions about them after the game.

"[The last four days] haven't been good," Hader said. "I regret the mistakes that I made in the past. That doesn't resemble the person I am now."

Hader expressed enough contrition in his postgame comments Tuesday that neither Major League Baseball nor the Brewers decided to suspend him. Instead, he was ordered to undergo sensitivity training, a process that began at the ballpark Friday in a session with Billy Bean, a former big leaguer who now works as the vice president for social responsibility and inclusion for MLB. Bean is also a prominent member of the LGBT community, a group that was the target of some of Hader's tweets. Bean came out publicly as gay after his playing days.

Bean's session with Hader -- what Bean called "step one" -- lasted more than two hours.

"We have to remember that he's basically a rookie and a lot of attention has come his way because he's done such an amazing job in his career so far," Bean said. "He was really looking to me for some guidance, mostly just to convey that that's not who he is.

"The reality is that the context of those tweets are tough, and we all have a responsibility for being a part of baseball. But those happened a long time ago. Josh signed as a professional out of high school. Those were written before he ever played one inning of professional baseball."

The most emotional part of Hader's day came in a pregame address to his teammates, coaches and manager Craig Counsell in the Milwaukee clubhouse. According to outfielder Brett Phillips, who has known Hader since they both played in the Houston Astros system, the pitcher's despair was evident.

"Today was big for him," Phillips said. "A sincere apology, and he did [it]. You could tell in his voice that he's very, very, very sorry. He apologized to all of us, and from here, it's just moving forward, as tough as it's going to be. Our ultimate goal now is to win the World Series."

As Hader's star rose with his dominant on-field performance, he also carved out a reputation as a well-liked teammate, someone who was unfailingly polite in his dealings with fans and media. That was what made Hader's unearthed tweets so difficult for his teammates to reconcile with the person they have come to know.

"It's tough," Phillips said. "This is self-inflicted. Obviously, that's not who he is. That's way out of character for Josh Hader. I've lived with him the past four years, coming from Houston, and not once -- not once -- has he said any of those [sentiments] behind closed doors to myself or anyone who is close with him.

"Looking at those tweets, he's come a long way. You can see the growth. If you believe people can change for the worst, then you believe they can change for the best. Looking at those tweets, Josh Hader has definitely changed for the best."

There were a few themes that emerged during the pregame session before Friday's game. One was that Hader's hateful tweets were not indicative of his current belief system. In other words, Hader's remorse struck those who mattered most -- his teammates -- as genuine.

"He offered some very heartfelt, emotional comments to the team," Counsell said. "He's emotional. From there, he's asking for support. He's hurting, so we're supporting him and trying to extract some positives out of this whole situation."

Phillips agreed and pointed out that even after Friday's contrition, Hader will face more trials ahead.

"It hurts," Phillips said. "It's going to suck. People aren't going to see past this. Like I said yesterday, this isn't who Josh Hader is as a person today. Everyone is going to support the 2018 Josh Hader, because everyone knows he's a good person."

Outfielder and fellow All-Star Christian Yelich, in his first season with Milwaukee, added to the chorus of support for Hader, while being careful to emphasize that the thoughts expressed in the tweets were not acceptable.

"Everything I know about the guy and every interaction I've had with him, there has been no indication of anything like that," Yelich said. "It's something that has happened and needs to be addressed. The commentary in those tweets was tough and where we're at today in our society is far past that. He understands that. He regrets it.

"As teammates, we acknowledge that it was a wrong, but we want to support him because he's been there for us. Going forward, I think that's what we're going to do."

Another theme was that if Hader was once capable of issuing sentiments such as he did as a teenager, one of the reasons he's changed is the sport in which he now earns his living -- baseball -- is a tapestry of players of different ethnic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

"I [thought] I was going to meet [who I found] today," Bean said. "And that is a young man in a tremendous amount of pain. I sympathize [with] him tremendously, and I was really proud of him, of the way he wanted to convey that he feels like he let his teammates down. He wants to repair that more than anything."

For Hader, his makeover has been so complete that the existence of the tweets he authored so long ago shocked him.

"I did not [remember]," Hader said. "And they weren't being full to me. Those are not my beliefs at all. It's tough, because people that I've hurt by those tweets, it's not something I want to do. It hurts me deeply."

The final theme that emerged was that while everyone seems to agree that Hader has evolved beyond the person who issued the tweets, and that his teammates will continue to support him, the road ahead will be a difficult one. Bean said during their meeting that Hader floated the idea of speaking about his experience to young players at the Arizona Fall League.

"I just want them to know that I'm sorry for what I did back in the day," Hader said. "The mistakes that I made. They are family to me. [The comments] aren't me, what I meant."

He added, "They were never my beliefs. I was young, and I was saying stuff out of just ignorance that are not what I meant. I believe that there is a greater path to this, that I can give back and help others not do what I did. But this is truly a testament to me, how bad these really are."

Hader was a no-brainer selection for the National League's All-Star team after going 2-0 with seven saves, a 1.50 ERA and an amazing 89 strikeouts in just 48 innings during the first half. His outing for the National League on Tuesday didn't go well -- he allowed four hits and a three-run homer to Seattle's Jean Segura.

The longest pregame sequence of Hader's career concluded with a news conference in the interview room at Miller Park. He stood in front of the stage, surrounded by reporters, cameras and microphones, and tried to explain what he, himself, hardly seems to understand: Who was it who could have written those tweets? Hader grew emotional once again when asked what message he'd like to share with his fans.

"This isn't me," Hader said. "I hope that people I've touched and came across, they know who I truly am. I made mistakes. I'm not perfect. I've grown as a person. Baseball really helped me grow."

As Hader answered questions, what appeared to be the entire Brewers roster entered the interview room. Jesus Aguilar and Lorenzo Cain went onto the stage behind Hader and sat at the table there. Several other teammates were flanked off to the side. Others fanned across the lecture hall, watching their teammate struggle to express himself, offering their silent support.

"It's amazing," Hader said. "It just tells me that they have my back, and we are a true family."

Hader's life today is different than it was when he departed for the festivities in Washington, D.C., last weekend. Still emotional as he spoke to the media, still uncertain in his words and his thoughts of what comes next, he did offer a hint at a path Bean suggested he might take, one that could, over time, begin to make things right.

"I was really convinced after a couple of long hours we spent together today, much longer than I expected, that his experience as an athlete, as a professional in an integrated, diverse environment has created the person he is today," Bean said. "I believe that, much like many of our millennial youth, he probably forgot whatever moment that was in his adolescence. Today was the beginning of what I felt Josh will be judged being fairly moving forward. He's learned a lot in the last two and a half days."