At a time when openly gay athletes may still feel uncomfortable in the sports realm, Sean Karson's story is an encouraging sign.

The MIT third baseman and co-captain of the baseball squad came out to his teammates after a recent practice, and he says he was blown away by their acceptance.

"They came up and gave me high fives and said they’d have my back and everything," Karson told the Boston Herald. "It was so supportive, it was ridiculous."

A junior who is majoring in chemistry, Karson came out after spending the weekend at a conference for LGBT tech students at the Facebook headquarters in California. The Florida native is highly accomplished both on and off the field. A three-year starer on the diamond, Karson is also the founder of a technology start-up called Sponge Systems.

Karson's story, and the ease with which he came out to his teammates, might not have been possible were it not for the trials of several gay sports figures before him. Steve Buckley wrote in the Boston Herald that Karson has been following the work of the "You Can Play" project, which was founded in the memory of former Miami (Ohio) hockey manager Brendan Burke, the son of former Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke. Several months after coming out in the fall of 2009, Burke was killed in a car accident. The "You Can Play" campaign is working toward changing the sometimes anti-gay language used in professional locker rooms.

More directly, Karson was influenced by the story of James Nutter, a former University of Southern Maine baseball player who recently came out.

Despite the fact that there are currently no openly gay men in any of the major professional sports, a high-profile coming out like Karson's could help younger athletes feel more comfortable with their sexuality.

And for what it's worth, Karson thinks the lack of an openly gay athlete will change very soon.

“I think it’s going to happen in the next month," Karson told Buckley. "Nobody’s going to throw at you if you're the gay person on the team. I feel great. I’m not scared."

(H/T to Larry Brown Sports)

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