MLB continues Mother's Day tradition
Players swing pink bats to raise breast cancer awareness
Every day is a great day in a Major League Baseball season.
But you have to admit that Mother's Day is now officially one of the best.
Just listen to the excitement in the voices of seemingly every player talking about the pink bats and about moms before the day's game -- and the way some were ripping open Louisville Slugger boxes like holiday gifts to get at the goods.
Just look at Carlos Beltran and Ryan Church hitting those thunderous, back-to-back pink jacks for the Mets in front of that full house on the last Mother's Day at Shea.
Just think how many people were prompted to get screened for breast cancer and how much money is going to be raised for Susan G. Komen for the Cure once those signed pink bats and other items show up at the MLB.com Auction.
Just check out the smiles on the faces of mothers everywhere as they saw players wearing pink Phiten necklaces, pink trim on their spikes, pink ribbons, pink wristbands -- symbols everywhere of appreciation for what moms mean.
Sunday was a day unlike any other on the 2008 baseball calendar, and it has been this way for three years now. It is getting more incredible every year.
"It's about Mom and it's about breast cancer," Giants catcher Bengie Molina said. "It's everything together. We're playing a game while people are dying and getting sick with cancer. Using the bat is a nice way for us to show our respect and support."
Molina immediately used his pink bat as a symbol, leading off the second inning with a single and then scoring the Giants' first run two batters later. He had intended to use that bat only once and then autograph it for the MLB.com Auction, but you know baseball players, and you don't retire a hot bat, so he doubled with it off the center-field wall his next time up.
"I wasn't going to use it at all," he said, "or maybe one at-bat. It depended."
The whole notion of a day of pink around Major League Baseball depended again on everyone -- Hillerich & Bradsby to make the special pink bats, hitters to swing the bats, all players to wear the pink trimming, fans to enjoy those Pink Zones around the ballparks, MLB Charities kicking in $50,000 to Komen through the "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" program. And the nice part is that the focus doesn't end when Sunday melts into Monday, because there again will be a "rolling auction" in which most of that game-used pink stuff is being signed and gradually will appear at the MLB.com Auction over coming days and weeks.
All of those proceeds will go to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, another reason that the bidding again will be a raging battle for many of those items. In fact, there is still time left to jump into the bidding for pink bats autographed ahead of time by Yankees stars Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
Fans also can purchase their own personalized "Mother's Day 2008" pink bats right now for $79 apiece at the MLB.com Shop, with $10 from the sale of each one going to Komen. It is all part of a giant concerted effort in which everyone who plays or watches the game is involved, and you just can't say that about every day of the season.
"Major League Baseball is committed to giving back to our communities in meaningful ways and we are proud to again partner with Susan G. Komen for the Cure to help raise awareness and funds for the fight against breast cancer," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Breast cancer affects countless women and their families each year and we at Baseball feel fortunate to be able to use our game as a platform to help raise awareness in the ongoing fight to eradicate this disease."
"At Susan G. Komen for the Cure, we collaborate with a variety of organizations to provide creative ways for people to make a difference in the fight against breast cancer," said Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. "Partnering with Major League Baseball increases breast cancer awareness and allows fans nationwide to make a valuable contribution to breast cancer research and community outreach programs."
Pink bats are the most obvious symbol on this day, and the overall message was to stop, think and help. Prior to Tampa Bay's home game against the Angels, breast cancer survivor Peggy Cisilski was joined by her daughter, Christine, in throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. The Rays won, 8-5, and rookie phenom Evan Longoria got to swing a pink bat for the first time and immediately hit a sac fly to drive in Tampa Bay's second run. Carl Crawford hit a three-run homer with his. Those are two signed bats that will get sky-high bidding.
"Of course it feels funny hitting with a pink bat, but, you know, it's for a good cause, so we had fun with it for the day," Crawford said afterwards. "It brings awareness to breast cancer. So anything bringing attention to that situation is good."
At Dodger Stadium, throwing out the ceremonial first pitches were two women who are currently fighting breast cancer, Dodgers season ticket holder Nancy Colton and Desiree Sanchez, who works in the club's front office.
Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who overcame prostate cancer in 1999 while managing the Yankees, said the more that can be done to raise awareness about cancer and research funding, the better.
"What's interesting is, before you get exposed to it, be it a friend, family or yourself, cancer is something you sort of didn't want to think about," Torre said. "Then all of a sudden you realize when you do learn about cancer, it's not a death sentence. I think information helps you open up and the more information you get, the more you realize research is where the future is. So this is exciting to call attention to it and to have baseball be a part of it, which I'm very proud of the fact that they are doing that."
Look how much fun Jimmy Rollins had with his pink bat -- an example of what was happening all over. The reigning National League MVP presented his mom after that Phillies-Giants game with a pink bat that read in capital bold letters: "GIGI ROLLINS HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY 2008." He didn't tell her about that beforehand, he said, because "I know she'll say, 'You better get some hits using my bat.' That will put more pressure on me."
One-fifth of the day's games were postponed by rain: Yankees at Tigers, Blue Jays at Indians, and Braves at Pirates. But it could not put a damper on the day's overall theme, and in fact you can expect for caseloads of signed pink bats and, yes, even signed pink dugout lineup cards to be auctioned off from those games.
"This hits home with a lot of people," Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill said before their game was called. "Even people who haven't lost someone to that, they can still relate, because it's such a big thing. Just being able to help out, it's the least we can do, really. ... It's a great thing MLB has got into and hopefully there will be many more to come."
"We're starting to get to the age where more and more friends are being diagnosed with breast cancer," Yankees veteran Johnny Damon added. "You want to bring awareness to anybody. If it's one person who goes in and gets checked to discover something, it's worth it. I think this is great, what Major League Baseball does."
How big is Mother's Day now in Major League Baseball?
Just ask White Sox reliever Reliever Matt Thornton. His mom was diagnosed with breast cancer more than 20 years ago. She survived and he called her Sunday morning to share his love. It clearly was not just one of 162.
"Anytime you can give her a little token of appreciation, I do," Thornton said before his team's game at Seattle. "It is fun, paying tribute to your mother for all she's done. She's the one who drove me all around when I was a kid, around the state and country for my games. She was always the one there.
"It is awesome to give credit to every mother there is, or whoever raised you, mother, grandmother, stepmother. Give them credit for everything they did. It's important to do."
There was a lot of that going around.
"I think it's probably cool for the mothers who are watching the games to see that and know that it's a tribute to them and to look and see the wrist bands and the ribbons and the bats," said Adam LaRoche of the Pirates, "because obviously none of us would be here if it wasn't for our moms."
"I think sometimes it gets lost in translation," Cubs second baseman Mark DeRosa said of a mother's impact. "Everyone wants to say, 'Hey, have a catch with your dad,' like in 'Field of Dreams.' I don't think people realize sometimes how influential mothers can be in guiding their sons to be big league ballplayers."
In that split second when a Major League Baseball player is trying to do the hardest thing to do in sports -- hit a baseball thrown hard from only 60 feet six inches away -- the last thing in the world he notices is the color of his bat.
But everyone else does on Mother's Day.
"It's just another piece of lumber, and it doesn't matter what color it is, but it's nice to get a knock and see that mark on the sweet spot," Rangers catcher Gerald Laird said. "It is a special day. It's awesome to come out and show our appreciation for what women go through. It's important for us to understand and nice to support breast cancer research. Hopefully, they can find a cure for it."
According to komen.org, an estimated 182,460 cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in American women in 2008 alone. In 1975, the number was 107 per 100,000 for caucasian women and 94 per 100,000 for African-American women. Twenty-nine years later, in 2004, the number of new cases per year had risen, to 128 per 100,000 and 119 per 100,000, respectively.
The five-year survival rate for all women diagnosed with breast cancer is 90 percent. This means that 90 out of every 100 women with breast cancer will survive without a recurrence for at least five years. Most will live a full life and never have a recurrence. The chances of surviving are better if the cancer is detected early, before it spreads to other parts of your body. In fact, when breast cancer is confined to the breast, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent.
That harsh data goes hand in hand each Mother's Day with the typical data that streams from every baseball game. It is what drives this annual happening.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he "would have used [a pink bat as a player] because of the significance of it. I lost my mom last spring and what she did for me growing up are things you don't forget. It's a special day for me to reflect on what she did for me."
It is now possible to detect some real "pink All-Stars" -- if you go by three-year trending as fantasy observers do. Take Ian Kinsler of the Rangers. He went 3-for-5 on Sunday with an RBI and two runs scored in the Rangers' 12-6 loss to the Athletics. It was an encore performance from last season, when Kinsler hit a homer with the pink bat.
Along with Kinsler, every Rangers batter used a pink bat on Sunday in honor of Mother's Day.
"It doesn't really matter what color the bat is, but it's nice to show appreciation for all the moms out there," Kinsler said. "It's Mother's Day and it's a big deal for a lot of people."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.