The sixth annual Honorary Bat Girl Contest is underway, encouraging fans to share "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" stories for a chance to be honored on the field during Mother's Day celebrations around Major League Baseball.
Through March 24, anyone 18 and older who has been affected by breast cancer and demonstrates a commitment to eradicating the disease can go to honorarybatgirl.com to submit a story. The campaign, launched on Friday, will honor all those affected by using equipment and other items with the symbolic pink of breast cancer awareness on Sunday, May 11.
Fans are invited to share inspirational stories that they or loved ones have had or are experiencing that provide hope and motivation in the fight against breast cancer. In addition, fans will share the reasons they want to represent their favorite team as its Honorary Bat Girl. Entries can be submitted by survivors, advocates and/or supporters. More than 5,000 testimonials have been submitted and more than 10 million fan votes have been cast over the first five years of this program.
"Major League Baseball remains committed to recognizing the fearless fans who show courage in the face of breast cancer, and who not only take strides to fight against the disease, but help those around them who are also affected," said Tim Brosnan, MLB's executive vice president of business. "Season after season, these brave fans share their stories through our Honorary Bat Girl program, highlighting perseverance and selflessness in the face of adversity."
Through baseball's annual Mother's Day tradition, one Honorary Bat Girl per club will take part in pregame activities, be honored during an on-field ceremony, and receive pink merchandise and 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.
A panel of judges, including players and well-known figures, will help select the winning submissions based on originality, quality of writing, demonstration of commitment to breast cancer awareness and public appeal as determined by online fan votes. Judges for 2014 will be revealed at a later date.
Last year's panel included Alex Gordon of the Royals, Matt Kemp of the Dodgers, Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates and CC Sabathia of the Yankees.
For an example of a winning submission, consider this 2013 entry from Kansas City honoree Kelly VanBuskirk, who was diagnosed in 2009 and, as she endured surgeries and treatments, found strength in her weakest moments.
"There can be good that comes out of dark times. I want this opportunity for the three generations of family who fought this before me. My son is a Royals fan to his core; what an honor it would be to share in this event, to be on the field with a team he looks up to ... I would be honored to take a stand against cancer for those who cannot be here today, those currently fighting it and for those who have to hear the dreaded words tomorrow."
Having her photo taken with Gordon, both of them holding pink bats, was the kind of bright spot that brought tears of joy for VanBuskirk. Those moments are widespread with Honorary Bat Girls. The 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. It is supported by charitable partners Stand Up Ro Cancer and Susan G. Komen and has set out to raise awareness about the cause while raising funds to support research.
For more information on the full calendar of baseball's community events in 2014, and to see how you can be involved in its ongoing programs, visit MLBCommunity.org.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.