GILBERT - AN ODD FASHION statement is being made these days in Gilbert, where bib overalls long have been acceptable attire for an evening on the town. Some young men and their parents are wearing pink. Shockingly bright pink.
The equally shocking declaration that real men can wear any color apparently is spreading in Lexington County. Shane Robertson says he proudly wore a pink shirt the other day when he entered La Fogata restaurant, all the way out in Red Bank.
"You have little snickers here and there," Robertson says, "but I don't worry about that."
Robertson is an assistant coach for the Gilbert Pink Panthers baseball team in the seven-team Gilbert/Tri-County Dixie Youth baseball Pony League. You guessed it: The Pink Panthers wear pink jerseys. So, too, do their coaches. Most of the mothers in the grandstands don pink to watch their sons play.
The jerseys represent a cause for the Pink Panthers, who wear the familiar ribbon for breast-cancer awareness on their sleeves.
"They've really impressed me," Rick Snelling, coach of the Pink Panthers, says of his team. "A lot of young men are not proud to stand up for a cause, but these kids have done that."
The idea for the pink jerseys was not about a cause at all. It had more to do with a couple of players displaying a rebellious streak. The 13- and 14-year-old players have risen up through the Dixie Youth baseball ranks wearing traditional colors such as black and blue and red.
"We were used to having these regular jerseys, and we wanted something different," says Jon Newman, obviously the unorthodox one among the players since he also wears jersey No. 00.
"Besides," Newman says, "all the girls like the pink."
Newman, Nick Kennedy, Chris Weaver, Nick Snelling and a couple of others broached the idea of pink with the coach.
"We want to do pink shirts," Snelling recalls his son, Nick, telling him.
"For real?" Snelling responded.
After the initial shock, Snelling opted to put the pink project to a vote. It was unanimous. All 12 players agreed to be the first baseball team -- perhaps at any level, anywhere -- to wear pink.
OK, Snelling figured, if the team was to wear pink, it needed a nickname. So he began taking suggestions. Daisies was out. So, too, was Pink Flamingos. They settled on Pink Panthers.
Next on the agenda was to send the order for jerseys to B&L Sports in Batesburg-Leesville. The print screeners took it upon themselves to add a breast-cancer awareness logo on the jersey sleeves, and a cause was born.
Robertson, the assistant coach, was especially proud to jump on board. His family has a history of cancer affliction, including his wife, Kathy, who is a cancer survivor. He has lost a grandmother and a couple of grandfathers to cancer.
To get the cause off the ground, the players began wearing their pink jerseys to Gilbert Middle School every Friday during the season. The team also has plans to sell pink visors, conduct a car wash and auction the jerseys following the season, with proceeds going to breast-cancer awareness.
For now, though, the Pink Panthers have a season to play. During the first half of the schedule, opponents have poked fun at the team and its uniforms, with the most common refrain being, "You guys look real pretty."
Then the games begin, and opponents have to be more concerned with the pitching slants of 6-foot-4 Jacob Dearlove. That is a lot of pink on a pitcher's mound - enough to serve as motivation for opponents.
Terry Spires is the coach of another Gilbert team, and he told his club the only thing worse than wearing pink is losing to a team that wears pink. Spires' team won a 3-2 decision Thursday, dropping the Pink Panthers' record to 2-2.
The Pink Panthers might not win any championships this season, but they are certain to be winners of championing a good cause.