Baseball goes pink on Mother's Day
Players and coaches raise awareness about breast cancer
Breast cancer, we have powerful friends on our side.
Those words were on the top of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure homepage on Sunday, and you were probably watching a lot of those powerful friends on this Mother's Day around Major League Baseball. They were guys like Craig Biggio, Ken Griffey Jr., Milton Bradley, Carlos Beltran and more than 200 in all who were swinging bright pink bats. They were all the others wearing pink wristbands and making a statement no one could miss.
Their mission was to make you stop and think about breast cancer. An estimated 178,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among U.S. women in 2007. An estimated 40,460 women who will die from the disease this year. There are statistics that we love to recite as baseball fans; those are not the ones, but that is reality.
The determination baseball showed this Mother's Day will go on, because many of those same pink bats are going to show up at the MLB.com Auction in the days and weeks ahead. All proceeds will go to Komen, with those funds earmarked for scientific research as well as treatment and public-awareness initiatives. It is not known yet which bats will be auctioned and when they will be listed.
Major League Baseball and its fans collectively raised $350,000 last year in that unprecedented first usage of symbolic pink bats on Mother's Day, and the goal this time is at least $1 million.
"I think [the charity] is great," said Biggio, who reached base four times for Houston with a pink bat, including twice on doubles to move within 34 hits of 3,000. "My mom was a breast cancer survivor, so I'm very happy to use one and and raise money for that. I think MLB stepping up and including more guys in it this year is going to make more money for the cause, and I think it's a great thing, I really do."
"What else can you ask for?" said Raul Ibanez, one of the Seattle players who swung pink during that dramatic 2-1 Mariners victory at home over the Yankees. "You get this opportunity and platform to do some good in the community and raise awareness, and I think we accomplished that with the pink bats and the pink wristbands, and you have to credit MLB for doing that, and all the guys that used them. It's great."
"It's very special to use the pink bats. Moms are very special in everyone's life," Ryan Zimmerman said after swinging one of those pink Louisville Sluggers in Washington's victory at home over Florida. "To see how it's grown -- not too many people used it last year. It seems like everybody is using it now. I think it's a good thing that they auction the bats off to raise money."
Fans can also purchase their own personalized pink bat at the MLB.com Shop, or www.slugger.com, with Major League Baseball donating $10 from the sale of each bat to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure. It is all part of an overall "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" program conducted by MLB and Komen, incorporating numerous facets of the game, both on and off the field, to generate awareness about breast cancer and raise funds to help fight the disease. The initiative runs until this Saturday.
As all players return to their normal bat models, attention on the pink bats will move to the MLB.com Auction. The bats will gradually show up in batches as a rolling auction, so just be sure to check there regularly this next month. And prepare for some competition, because there is a chance you could own:
A pink bat Beltran used to launch that massive home run high off the right-field foul pole during the Mets' big eighth inning of a 9-1 rout of those high-flying Brewers at Shea Stadium. Or maybe the one Bill Hall used to hit yet another pink homer in the last inning -- just as he did so famously for that walk-off homer one year ago against those same Mets.
A pink bat Bradley used to hit a game-tying, two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth for Oakland against Cleveland -- setting up Jack Cust's walk-off winner. Or maybe the one Griffey used for career homer No. 570, passing Rafael Palmeiro on the all-time list.
A pink bat Cristian Guzman swung for a two-run triple in Washington's 6-4 victory at home against the Marlins. Or maybe the one Jeff Kent swung for a big Dodgers homer.
Biggio said he was planning to give the bat that resulted in the doubles to his daughter.
Everyone has been talking about pink bats. Everyone has been looking at the bats the same way Hideki Matsui looks at his bat before each pitch. That was the whole plan. Just ask Mark Teixeira, whose mother Margy is a breast cancer survivor.
"It's very important for me," said Teixeira, who swung a pink bat along with the entire Rangers lineup in their 7-6 comeback victory over the Angels in Arlington. "With what my mother went through, and with the Susan G. Komen foundation doing so much good for women around the world, it's important to me."
Adam Kennedy used a pink bat for one of the Cardinals' three hits against San Diego, and then said of the realities of breast cancer: "I think everybody, either directly or indirectly, has someone. And if not, the awareness of the possibility of it occurring is important."
Griffey -- who leads all active players with an amazing six Mother's Day homers -- ordered multiple bats and plans on giving one to his mother and one to his wife, just like he did last year. "It's special to me," he said, "because it represents two of the three most important people in my life."
The use of pink bats was entirely voluntary. Baseball is a game of "feel" if you are a hitter. Consider the case of Tampa Bay first baseman Carlos Pena. He originally signed up to swing pink, and although he remains a strong supporter of the initiative, Pena said he didn't like how the bat felt during batting practice. He ended up having to make a change back to his regular one, and the result was a seventh-inning homer that drove home the game-winning run in the ninth at Toronto.
"Sometimes you got to make a decision before the game about which one feels good and say, 'I'm going with this one,'" Pena said after the game.
Cust wasn't able to use a pink bat when he launched that dramatic walk-off hit to the opposite field to beat Cleveland at Oakland. He was in the Minors with a different organization 11 days ago and wasn't expected to be in the Majors on Mother's Day. He did, however, wear a pink wristband.Jim Thome, who lost his mother, Joyce, in January 2005 after a year-long battle with lung cancer, didn't play for the White Sox on Sunday as he continues to work his way back from a right ribcage strain that landed him on the 15-day disabled list. But in order to pay proper tribute, Thome -- who homered with a pink bat last year -- used the pink bat during his morning batting practice session.
"This is a great day to reflect, especially with my wife and now, us having children," said Thome, whose White Sox club lost, 11-1, to Kansas City. "It makes it worth reflecting on what they gave you."
Such sentiments were widespread around the game on Sunday. In Oakland, a knob of a pink bat included the words "Love you, Mom." In Denver, someone in the Giants' clubhouse wrote on a markerboard: "Make your moms proud!" It was a day for players to think about family and what's important in life, and the overarching message was for everyone to think about a disease that the Komen foundation is now in its 25th year of trying to help find a cure and improve treatment and early screening methods.
During Sunday's games, Major League players wore pink wristbands, pink ribbons were displayed on player uniforms as well as on those of all on-field personnel. The breast cancer awareness theme was carried throughout each game, including pink-ribbon logos on the bases and commemorative home plates, and pink dugout lineup cards. Team-autographed commemorative home plates, pink bats and lineup cards from each ballpark also will be listed on the MLB.com Auction at a later date to raise additional funds for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Those aren't the only ways that baseball and its fans are taking action. During the "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" program, fans can support the initiative by logging onto an MLB-themed microsite (www.komen.org/mlb) and making a monetary pledge in the name of a specific team or to the general cause. Donations made in a team's name will go to programs in that team's community to support breast health and breast cancer awareness. The donations can be made at five different levels: "Single" ($25), "Double" ($50), "Triple" ($75), "Home Run" ($100) and "Grand Slam" ($250). Major League Baseball Charities has also committed an additional $50,000 on top of the fan donation total. Each individual club has its own fundraising goal toward that overall $1 million target set by MLB and Komen.
"Major League Baseball is proud to again partner with Susan G. Komen for the Cure to help raise awareness and funds for a disease that affects so many women and their families," Commissioner Bud Selig said of the continued efforts. "It is important to all of us in baseball that our clubs, players, licensees and fans give back to our communities in such a meaningful way."
Robby Hammock was one of many Diamondbacks players who took pink bats up to the plate during their team's 5-2 loss to Biggio and the Astros. At the end of this day, it was about much more than a win or a loss in the standings.
"I just like the message that it sends to anyone watching," Hammock said. "That Major League Baseball supports Mother's Day and those who have battled breast cancer."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.