Mariners salute Honorary Bat Girl Haffner

Local mother and teacher is battling breast cancer

Mariners salute Honorary Bat Girl Haffner

SEATTLE -- Betsy Haffner doesn't normally like tons of attention. But throwing the ceremonial first pitch at a Mariners game in front of more than 40,000 before a Sunday matinee against the Angels had a much greater meaning than simply trying to get it across the plate.

Haffner, who teaches school and is a mother of five children in Kennewick, Wash., was 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 Mother's Day festivities. Since the Mariners were on the road on Mother's Day, Haffner's moment came Sunday.

She did not disappoint.

Haffner is battling Stage 4 breast cancer. She was first diagnosed in 1994 at age 39 and was pronounced cancer-free after a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and five years of hormone treatments. But the cancer returned last summer, and she is again undergoing chemotherapy and hormone therapy for metastatic breast cancer.

That's why she welcomed the chance to have her story told.

"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, nominated his mother for the honor. He said she embodies "dignity and fearlessness and lifts up our entire family in the process."

She displayed that, along with symbolic pink wristbands and decent command of the strike zone, in her first pitch, which was caught by Mariners pitcher Taijuan Walker, whose own mother is a breast cancer survivor. Walker also was part of the panel of judges that selected Haffner.

Haffner, her husband Mark, and the rest of their family consider themselves serious Mariners fans who have used baseball to "connect things that we love, each other and the game and the Mariners. Put them all together, it's really special."

MLB introduced the Honorary Bat Girl program in '09 to raise awareness and support for the annual "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" initiative.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.