Yanks' Honorary Bat Girl raises cancer awareness

Yanks' Honorary Bat Girl raises cancer awareness

NEW YORK -- Renee Heine was at Yankee Stadium with a purpose Sunday night.

The mother of two and longtime Yankees fan was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2012 at 37 years old, forever changing her life. But come this June, she will celebrate being cancer free for four years. On Sunday, she celebrated Mother's Day as the Yankees' Honorary Bat Girl and, from just outside the Yankees' dugout, she said she wants to spread a message about her experience.

"I was so young when I was diagnosed, and when I was diagnosed I never thought it was possible," Heine said. "I was 37 years old. Cancer doesn't strike women at 37. Well, I was foolish. So I just want to be here and let people know that cancer doesn't discriminate."

Heine, a native of Wayne, N.J., said she was the runner-up for the position of Honorary Bat Girl last season and was ecstatic when she was selected for the position this year.

The cancer diagnosis turned Heine's life upside down, but she was still able to take solace in one thing through the treatment: Yankees baseball.

"They were my complete distraction," she said. "That was what cleared my head and kept my mind at ease. It was the one thing I could watch on TV that didn't make me sad, didn't make me upset or anxious. It just put me at ease."

Baseball has been a constant in Heine's life. She and her husband got engaged at a ballpark and she said her sons spend afternoons around the game. In fact, her husband and oldest son spent the first half of Sunday up in Cooperstown while she and her younger son relaxed at home before the four headed off to Yankee Stadium.

With the Yankees serving as such a fixture in Heine's life, she said she couldn't imagine a much better Mother's Day. However, there will still be a little bit of family discord on the night, as Heine said her mother doesn't share her love of the Yankees, instead supporting the rival Red Sox, who were in town to wrap up a weekend series.

Authentic game-used Louisville Slugger pink bats and other gear from Mother's Day games will be auctioned exclusively at MLB.com, with proceeds benefiting the fight against breast cancer. The complete Mother's Day collection -- which includes the special caps and jerseys being worn by players on Sunday -- is available at the MLB.com Shop.

Nick Suss is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.