OAKLAND -- Betsy Haffner, a school teacher and mother of five from Kennewick, Wash., has been selected as the Mariners' 2016 Honorary Bat Girl as part of Major League Baseball's "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" program in conjunction with upcoming Mother's Day festivities.
Haffner, who is battling Stage IV breast cancer, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Angels-Mariners game at Safeco Field on Sunday, May 15. The Mariners will be on the road this coming Sunday, which is Mother's Day.
Haffner was first diagnosed with cancer in 1994 at age 39 and was pronounced cancer-free after a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and five years of hormone treatments. But last summer Haffner discovered the cancer had returned and she is again undergoing chemotherapy and hormone therapy for metastatic breast cancer.
Haffner, who teaches third grade at Richland's Badger Mountain Elementary School, normally shies away from being the center of attention, but says she welcomes the chance to publicize the fight against metastatic breast cancer.
"There are a lot of amazing women out there who fight this disease every day for both long and short periods of time, with only one way out," Haffner said. "We need research for cures as well as awareness. I didn't even know what it was until I got it myself."
Haffner's son, Eric, who nominated his mother for the honor, says she has met every challenge with "dignity and fearlessness and lifts up our entire family in the process."
Haffner and her husband, Mark, have 13 grandkids and the entire family has shared their love of Mariners baseball for years. She said the Mariners have given them a way to "connect things that we love, each other and the game and the Mariners. Put them all together, it's really special."
Haffner was chosen by a panel of judges that included Mariners pitcher Taijuan Walker, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor.
MLB introduced the Honorary Bat Girl program in '09 to raise awareness and support for the annual "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" initiative.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.