MLB unveils Honorary Bat Girl winners

Each club to recognize special fan making effort in fight vs. breast cancer

MLB unveils Honorary Bat Girl winners

Michelle Riccio is a Stage 4 breast cancer fighter who went to her 4-year-old son's T-ball games and most Blue Jays postseason home games in 2015, and her best friend who nominated her said Riccio "flips bats in the face of cancer and takes a stand against letting cancer control who she is or how she lives her life."

Belinda Sheldon of Humble, Texas, underwent successful double-mastectomy surgery but coded coming out of sedation due to heart disease. She was in a medically induced coma for four days. Sheldon not only woke up, but she inspired others by continuing to work as a registered nurse on the way to cancer-free status right now.

Linda Duaime is a longtime Phillies fan who has this motto: "Life is too short to be unhappy." She underwent final breast reconstruction surgery in February after two bouts with blood clots, and a breast cancer fundraiser in her honor raised enough money so she could donate back to her surgeon's support foundation for other patients.

Their stories of courage and perseverance command your attention, and it is full attention they and 27 others are about to receive. Major League Baseball on Monday announced the winners of the eighth annual Honorary Bat Girl contest, which recognizes baseball fans who have been affected by breast cancer and who demonstrate a commitment to supporting the fight against the disease.

Winners are listed at HonoraryBatGirl.com, and they will represent each of the 30 teams as they are recognized on-field at Major League ballparks this Sunday on Mother's Day or on an alternative date in May for clubs that are away. Thousands of testimonials have been submitted and more than three million fan votes have been cast since the program began in 2009.

During MLB's annual Mother's Day national day of recognition, the Honorary Bat Girl winners will take part in pregame activities, be honored during an on-field ceremony and receive pink MLB merchandise with two tickets to the game.

"It was a true honor partaking in the Honorary Bat Girl Contest," said health and wellness expert Jillian Michaels, an ambassador for Stand Up To Cancer and one of the guest judges who pored over the many entries. "I'm so grateful to all the applicants for their participation. Having people share their stories and band together to raise money and awareness is the key to beating this disease."

Fans from across the U.S. and in Canada shared inspirational stories of hope and motivation in their experiences in the fight against breast cancer, as well as the reasons they, or their nominees, should represent their favorite team.

Winning submissions were based on the following criteria: originality, quality of writing, demonstration of commitment to breast cancer awareness and public appeal (as determined by online fan votes).

In addition to Michaels, guest judges included Gregor Blanco of the Giants, Robinson Chirinos of the Rangers, Zach Duke of the White Sox, Freddie Freeman of the Braves; Kevin Gausman of the Orioles, Curtis Granderson of the Mets, Jeremy Jeffress of the Brewers, Scott Kazmir of the Dodgers, Taijuan Walker of the Mariners, Jered Weaver of the Angels, Lindsay Berra and Alyson Footer of MLB.com, and Sam Ryan and Chris Rose of MLB Network.

On Mother's Day, players and on-field personnel will wear the symbolic pink ribbon on their uniforms along with pink wristbands. Players also will wear specially designed uniforms that incorporate pink into the clubs' regular logos. Commemorative base jewels and dugout lineup cards also will be pink, and games will feature a pink-stitched Rawlings baseball.

Many players also will use pink bats, and many of the authenticated game-used Louisville Slugger pink bats and other pink items from Mother's Day games will be auctioned exclusively on MLB.com to benefit the fight against breast cancer.

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.