Every day this month, we’re looking back at our pioneers, the mark they left on our community and on the sports world, plus landmark events and stories that show Courage Is Contagious.

Today, UCLA softball coach Kirk Walker, a longstanding friend of Outsports. Here’s how co-founder Jim Buzinski told his coming out story in August 2011, as one of our 100 most important moments in gay sports history.

Kirk Walker comes out as only openly gay male Division 1 coach

Kirk Walker (left) with Billy Bean, Blake Skjellerup and Jason Collins.

By Jim Buzinski

Oregon State softball coach Kirk Walker was no stranger to Outsports. He was one of our first readers and we kept in touch with him regularly via email. Walker was comfortably out to those who mattered in his life and not yet ready to take the step of going public.

That changed in 2005 when he and his partner, Randy Baltimore, were in the process of adopting their daughter. Walker did not want his players to find out secondhand, so he told them. He came out in public in 2007 in an interview with Outsports.

“I told them my partner and I were adopting and the information was on a website,” Walker recalled about what he said to his players at the September 2005 meeting. Their coach was gay. And he just came out to them. Walker asked for questions. Their collective response, he said, was, “Oh, that’s great, now tell us about the baby.” They wanted to know everything about the process of Walker and his partner adopting a baby, and did not ask a single question about his sexual orientation.

“I wasn’t completely surprised by it, and it was kind of a nice thing that it really wasn’t a big deal, but deep down I felt I may get ramifications later,” Walker said. “Two or three weeks later, we had an alumni game, and all the parents were around, and the parents were all excited by the adoption as well, so it was obvious the kids had talked to them about it and there were no ramifications. That’s when I started to feel like this wasn’t going to be a big deal.”

Since his story went public, Walker has heard from many other gay and lesbian coaches, who have found an inspiration in his story.

“Although it’s only my story, it has definitely changed a lot of people’s perspectives — just internally, of how they view themselves,” Walker told the New York Times. “It tells them there’s a little bit of hope. ‘It may not be the right time for me, but this can happen.’ “

We think Walker is still the only openly gay male Division 1 coach. — Jim Buzinski

You can follow Kirk Walker on Twitter by clicking here. If you’re an LGBTQ person in sports looking to connect with others in the community, check out the Facebook groups that Kirk Walker co-founded: GO! Space, where you can meet and interact with other LGBTQ athletes, and Equality Coaching Alliance, where you’ll find other coaches, administrators and other non-athletes in sports.

We’ll have another LGBTQ Sports history story tomorrow and every day through Oct. 31.