MLB continues cancer fight on Mother's Day

MLB continues cancer fight on Mother's Day

On the first day pink bats were swung in Major League Baseball games, Jim Thome used his unique Louisville Slugger to hit one of his 612 career home runs. It was for the White Sox, a solo shot off Twins starter Carlos Silva on Mother's Day in 2006.

"Once you get the awareness out there, and the fact that Major Leaguers are involved and we are willing to do it and be a part of it, it kind of opens the door for a lot of other people to come in," Thome said that day.

It opened the door, all right. That was the start of an enduring, popular and unfortunately necessary tradition around the game. For the 10th year in a row, MLB will dedicate all games on Mother's Day to the fight against breast cancer. The "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" initiative supports Stand Up To Cancer and Susan G. Komen.

Players and on-field personnel will wear the symbolic pink ribbon on their uniforms today, with the option of also wearing pink wrist bands. Commemorative base jewels and dugout lineup cards also will be pink. Games will feature a pink-stitched Rawlings baseball.

As for the now-iconic symbolism of this day around MLB, many players will use pink bats, and pink Louisville Slugger bats will be stamped with the MLB breast cancer awareness logo. Many authenticated game-used Louisville Slugger pink bats from these games will be listed exclusively at MLB.com Auction to help fight breast cancer.

Among U.S. women in 2015, Komen estimates there will be:

• 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer. This includes new cases of primary breast cancer among survivors, but not recurrence of original breast cancer among survivors.

• 60,290 new cases of in situ breast cancer.

• 40,290 breast cancer deaths.

Breast cancer mortality rates in the U.S. increased slowly from 1975-90, and since '90, the mortality rate has decreased by 34 percent -- a decline attributable to improved breast cancer treatment and early detection. Since 2007, the incidence of breast cancer has remained stable, and inspirational stories of courage and remission are widespread.

Earlier this week, MLB announced the 30 people chosen in the annual Honorary Bat Girl program, either breast cancer survivors or their supporters. One Honorary Bat Girl per club will take part in pregame activities, be honored during an on-field ceremony and receive pink MLB merchandise with two tickets to the game. For clubs that are away on Mother's Day, another home game in May will be selected to recognize their Honorary Bat Girl.

The Honorary Bat Girl program was introduced in 2009 to raise additional awareness and support for the annual "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" initiative celebrated on Mother's Day. In six years, thousands of unique testimonials have been submitted and more than 2 million fan votes have been cast.

In addition to the league-wide plans, there are always improvisational gestures by players on each Mother's Day. Take last year, when Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez dyed his goatee pink. Pink cleats have become increasingly popular on this day as well.

"I think it's great," Padres pitcher James Shields said. "Everyone has pink bats, pink gloves, pink shoes. [I like] everything they do and just support the cause. It's one of the best causes out there, so it's a great thing."

"It's a big cause, and more and more people are getting diagnosed with it," said Braves right fielder Nick Markakis, whose mother Mary Lou is a breast cancer survivor. "But it is beatable, it's treatable and that's the awesome thing about it."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.