Players love swinging pink for Mom in fight vs. cancer
Major League Baseball uses Mother's Day to promote breast cancer awareness
Players, managers and team personnel around baseball honored their mothers, wives, sisters, grandmothers and plenty more on Sunday for Mother's Day. And, in some cases, that recognition extended to some players' influences on the diamond.
"She was my first coach growing up," Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said of his mother, Jeri. "She coached me until I was 8 or 9, maybe a little older. She always worked hard, got me to every practice. She made a lot of sacrifices."
More players league-wide paid homage to the women who have made sacrifices and been influential in their lives, as teams also raised awareness for breast cancer. Some players used special-edition Louisville Slugger pink bats, such as Astros outfielder Chris Carter. Carter crushed a three-run homer in the eighth inning against the Rangers with his pink lumber, and plans to give the bat to his mom as an extra Mother's Day gift.
"It's the first time I got one to swing and I'm happy I got that and finally hit a home run for my mom," Carter said. "She's been asking every year and I finally got it."
Carter isn't the first to present his mother with one of the unique pink bats as a gift. Two years ago, Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay gave his game-used pink bat to his mother. This season, Jay plans to give the pink bat he used on Sunday against the Rockies to a family friend who is battling cancer.
"It's nice to be able to honor the cancer survivors in this way," Jay said. "I always look forward to this. And it being Mother's Day -- that's special too."
Instead of distributing his bat as a gift, Orioles first baseman Chris Davis might consider keeping it around a bit longer.
"If I get some hits with them," Davis joked before hitting a home run in his first at-bat against the Twins on Sunday, "Maybe I'll see if I can use them the rest of the year."
Aside from the pink bats, other players joined in by wearing batting gloves, wristbands and other equipment brandished in pink.
It's a cause Cardinals manager Mike Matheny can appreciate. His grandmother, Luella Keefer, of Leon, W.Va., is a six-time cancer survivor at age 89.
"She's been through so much and she's so strong," Matheny said.
For Angels pitcher Jerome Williams, wearing the pink equipment isn't anything new. The 31-year-old right-hander has worn a pink glove ever since losing his mother to breast cancer in 2001. A segment about Williams and his reason for wearing the glove aired Sunday on ESPN's Baseball Tonight.
"I think this year, people really know about it since that story came out," Williams said. "Now people can realize why I wear it and what I go through every day -- what I think about every time I get on the mound, what I think about when I come to the clubhouse. It's all because of her.
"It makes me feel just thankful, knowing that Major League Baseball is actually taking the time out to do something like that."
The pink bats have been the most vivid annual show of support. You can personalize your own pink Louisville Slugger at the MLB.com Shop, and $10 from the sale of each bat will be donated to MLB Charities in support of the fight against breast cancer. As has been the case each year since 2006, game-used pink Louisville Sluggers will be auctioned exclusively on MLB.com to raise further funds.
"I just love going out there and using the bat and hoping that the bat gets some hits for my mom," Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips said. "That would be nice, also. It just means a lot to swing the pink bat. Hopefully my mom is watching, and all the mothers out there know we're thinking about our moms.
"I love representing my mom. If it wasn't for my mom, I wouldn't be the athlete and the man I am today. It's to show all the moms out there that we think about them, and we try to represent and show the love towards them. That's what it's all about. If it wasn't for the women in this world, nothing would be created."
Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman -- whose mother, Cheryl, has multiple sclerosis -- echoed a similar sentiment.
"I think we need to remember that we wear this stuff and then auction it off to try to raise money to try and find a cure for cancer," said Zimmerman, who himself raises money for multiple sclerosis awareness through his foundation. "But to be able to tie in the mom or whoever -- because I think moms get overlooked a lot in sports -- it's nice to be able to do that."
Again this year, Major League Baseball is recognizing 30 women, who, out of thousands, were selected in the Honorary Bat Girl contest, which recognizes baseball fans who have been affected by breast cancer and demonstrate a commitment to eradicating the disease. The winners, one per MLB club, are being recognized on the field at Major League ballparks Sunday or during an alternative date for away clubs. In addition to the winners, you can read all the entries at HonoraryBatGirl.com.
Winners were selected by fan votes on HonoraryBatGirl.com, along with feedback from a guest judging panel that included Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, MLB Network host and reporter Sam Ryan and Maria Menounos of Extra TV.
During MLB's annual recognition on Mother's Day, Honorary Bat Girls took part in pregame activities, were honored during an on-field ceremony and received pink MLB merchandise and two tickets to the game.
To further demonstrate their support for this cause, players and on-field personnel wore the symbolic pink ribbon on their uniforms and also wore pink wristbands Sunday. Commemorative base jewels and dugout lineup cards also were pink.
"I think Major League Baseball does a great job of celebrating Mother's Day," Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "We get to use the pink bats, as well. Obviously it's celebrating Mother's Day, but also a great cause of breast cancer awareness. I think everybody understands the importance of it. Speaking for myself, I enjoy it and I'm sure a lot of guys do."
Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.