Nats' '12 run gave cancer survivor Irwin hope

Nats' '12 run gave cancer survivor Irwin hope

WASHINGTON -- When Corinne Irwin wrote and submitted her story for the 2016 Honorary Bat Girl contest, she could not have imagined standing on the field at Nationals Park on Saturday evening. But there she was after being named the Nationals' winner, which recognizes baseball fans affected by breast cancer who have shown a commitment to fighting against the disease.

Irwin was honored on NatsHD, where she announced, "Play ball" and received a pair of tickets for the nightcap of Saturday's doubleheader against the Marlins.

"This is pretty exciting," Irwin said. "My husband was telling me write this essay, write this essay … how cool to be on the field."

Irwin's connection to the Nationals dates back to their return to D.C. in 2005. She attended the first game at RFK Stadium. Her love for the team intensified in 2012, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her chemotherapy began in April, and she did not end her radiation until October. Those dates lined up perfectly with the Nationals making a run at their first National League East championship. Even when she was not feeling well enough to go to the games, her husband would set up a hammock in the basement for her to lie down and watch Nats games.

"It just gave me hope," Irwin said. "There was something to follow that was exciting and fun. You could say, 'I'm not feeling very good, but there's baseball and the Nats are doing well.'"

Irwin has been cancer free for four years and uses her experiences to help other women dealing with the disease. She posts on social media to remind others to get their annual checkups. She wore a compression garment for lymphedema on her left arm to keep swelling controlled, and she said she likes to inform others on how to fight the treatable disease. Irwin also offers help to women newly diagnosed with breast cancer if they ever have any questions.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.