Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays, Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves and Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants will join country music superstar Jason Aldean and Sam Ryan, MLB Network host and reporter, as the Guest Judging Panel for the 2014 Honorary Bat Girl program, which recognizes baseball fans who have been affected by breast cancer and who demonstrate a commitment to eradicating the disease.
The Guest Panel will aid in the selection process of one Honorary Bat Girl for each of the 30 MLB teams. Winners will be recognized by their respective Club on Mother's Day, May 11th or during another game later in May. The program also includes strong support from players throughout the League who are personally committed to the fight against breast cancer.
The Guest Panel features Longoria, who is intimately involved in cancer research with the Moffitt Center in Tampa, FL and has an upcoming cancer charity walk; Freeman, who lost his mother to cancer; Sandoval, who appeared in a recent Stand Up To Cancer spot and whose host-mother while he was in the Minor Leagues is a cancer survivor. The Guest Panel will also include Susan G. Komen Ambassador Aldean, who lost a close family friend to breast cancer; and Ryan, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor.
"Major League Baseball is honored to recognize some of our strongest and bravest fans each year through our Honorary Bat Girl program," said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. "The Honorary Bat Girl nominees exhibit tremendous courage in the face of cancer and it is a great privilege to use the combined power of Major League Baseball, its clubs and players, Stand Up 2 Cancer and Susan G. Komen For the Cure to recognize them across the league on Mother's Day. I would like to thank the guest judges who will use their visibility and personal cancer experiences to help select and bring attention to our eventual winners."
"When I played for the Class A San Jose Giants I lived with my host family, Donna and Ed Musgrave," said Sandoval. "They helped me with a new language, a new culture and really became my family. When we found out that Donna had cancer, we all joined together and battled as one."
"There is not one adult person who hasn't been affected in some way by this disease," said Longoria. "I want to be a part, in some small way, of the search for a cure for all forms of cancer. I am honored to be a part of this group."
"From personal experience, I know how much strength it takes for someone to fight cancer," said Freeman. "I'm excited to participate in this campaign to recognize a number of those inspiring individuals across the country and provide a platform for their stories."
"According to statistics, about 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer during her lifetime," said Ryan. "When the disease hits your family and loved ones you no longer think of the statistics, you think about survival, courage, strength, support and love."
Fans can vote for their favorite stories at honorarybatgirl.com, a website powered by MLB.com. Votes will be accepted through April 14th, 2014. Fans were invited to share inspirational stories that they or loved ones have experienced or currently are experiencing that provide hope and motivation in the fight against breast cancer. Additionally, fans shared the reasons they want to represent their favorite team as its Honorary Bat Girl.
During MLB's annual Mother's Day national day of recognition, one Honorary Bat Girl per MLB Club will take part in pre-game activities, be honored during an on-field ceremony and receive pink MLB merchandise with two tickets to the game. For Clubs that are away on Mother's Day, another home game in May will be selected to recognize their Honorary Bat Girl.
The Honorary Bat Girl program was introduced in 2009 to raise additional awareness and support for the annual "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" initiative celebrated on Mother's Day. In five years, thousands of unique testimonials have been submitted and more than 4 million fan votes have been cast. Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer is a Major League Baseball initiative supported by its charitable partners Stand Up To Cancer and Susan G. Komen. This initiative raises awareness about breast cancer, while also raising funds to support breast cancer research.