If real men wear pink, then UCSB’s baseball team is not afraid to model their manhood.

The team sported pink hats and armbands yesterday to kick off the Pink Zone initiative, an annual event in support of breast cancer research. The campaign is a unified effort led by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association to draw attention to breast cancer across campuses and in local communities. The UCSB women’s basketball team also demonstrated their support for the initiative yesterday by donating pink attire throughout last night’s home game against Oregon State.

Women’s Basketball head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said the pink initiative allows collegiate athletes to play a vital role in the fight against breast cancer, a disease that affects nearly 200,000 women annually.

“The women’s basketball team is often the most visible group of women on a college campus,” Gottlieb said. “I’m a firm believer that we have a responsibility to use our visibility to be great role models, and also to raise awareness for certain specific causes.”

In addition to donning pink, the baseball and women’s basketball teams asked fans to wear pink and purchase pink sweatbands and hats at the games, the proceeds of which the teams will donate to fuel breast cancer research.

Kay Yow, who coached women’s basketball for 34 seasons at North Carolina State, fought a public battle with breast cancer and attracted widespread attention to the disease, Gottlieb said. Although this is not the first year the UCSB women’s basketball has worn pink in support of breast cancer, the symbol has taken on a larger meaning within the athletic community because of Yow, Gottlieb said.

“It has taken on particular significance this year with the recent passing of coaching legend Kay Yow, who fought a very public and very courageous battle with the disease for years,” Gottlieb said. “We were all inspired by her resilience, her courage, her faith and her devotion to the student-athletes she coached.”

The women’s basketball team also created pink warm-up jerseys that were designed and decorated individually by the players of the team to be sold to the fans. The proceeds from the jerseys will also go toward breast cancer research.

Although the women’s basketball squad has worn pink in past years, UCSB Athletics Director Mark Massari said the baseball team is just now joining the cause.

“Our baseball team is showing real solidarity for this very important cause,” Massari said. “We are the first college baseball team in the country to rally in support of breast cancer awareness.”

Second baseman Matt Valaika, a third-year sociology major, said his team was proud to play in pink yesterday.

“I feel like it’s an honor to play for such a great cause,” Valaika said. “Breast cancer affects so many women in the country, so I’m just glad that we are doing something.”

Pitcher Mario Hollands, a third-year sociology major, said he is delighted to see his team join the fight against breast cancer.

“I’m happy to see that we are doing something about this, and spreading the word as much as we can,” Hollands said. “It’s really great that we can join women’s basketball and put on this event.”