WASHINGTON -- When Major League Baseball brings awareness to breast cancer each year on Mother's Day, Pam McLouth has a wish to attend the special game in which her son, Nationals outfielder Nate McLouth, is in the lineup.
Pam won't be able to make it to this Sunday's game, when the Nats are in Oakland facing the Athletics, but Nate will make it up to her by sending her the pink bat and the batting gloves that he will be using in the game.
"She has a nice collection of pink stuff. It's important to her," Nate said. "Hopefully, she can come to an actual Mother's Day game."
Why is this Sunday a special day for Pam McLouth? She is a breast cancer survivor and she's proud to say she's in full remission. Pam's illness was discovered when Nate was starting out in the Pirates organization in 2001.
"It was a really big shock," Nate said. "Luckily, they caught it extremely early. But regardless -- when you hear the word 'cancer,' that's pretty scary. I think … you automatically [start wondering] what it's going to be like without that person, no matter how early they catch it. It's tough news to hear. It was really a tough time."
At the time, Pam was more concerned about her son, who left their home in Michigan for the first time to play professional baseball. She was wondering who was going to cook for him, clean his clothes. Prior to Nate leaving the nest, Pam had done all the chores. She would do anything to help Nate and his two younger brothers.
"I was a stay-at-home mom for 20-plus years, and he has two younger brothers," Pam said. "That's what I did. I cooked, I cleaned, I did laundry. All three of them were very busy. When Nate left the nest, I said, 'Yikes, I should have trained him a little more.' It didn't occur to me until it was a little bit late."
But Nate has done quite well for himself, which makes Pam proud. Besides having a career in baseball and winning a National League Gold Glove Award in 2008, Nate has learned to speak Spanish. In fact, he was seen talking fluent Spanish during Spring Training. Years ago, Pam suggested he should learn to speak a language other than English. She wanted him to learn to speak German, because her mother was from Germany.
"When he headed into the direction he was heading, we knew Spanish was going to be the language for him," Pam said. "I told him a language that he should take, but he knew better, and I'm glad he went into the direction he went."
There was a time during his career when Nate was at his lowest point. It was 2010 and '11, when he was with the Braves. Injuries were the main reasons he didn't play well in Atlanta. He was even sent to the Minor Leagues to work on his game. But Nate always had Pam and the rest of his family to lean on during tough times.
"She really helped me keep things in perspective," Nate said. "Any struggle in baseball is minute compared to what some people deal with in the real world. I think that it's an important perspective to keep.
"Her and my dad and everybody else were there. That was a tough time for me, but they helped me keep that perspective, knowing that baseball is not the end of the line. It's not the most important thing in the world. The worst day on a baseball field is better than a lot of people's best day. That was a very important perspective to keep."
Pam has kept things in perspective and hopes to attend a game on Mother's Day at Nationals Park next year.
"Maybe next year, they will be home and I can go," Pam said. "It's never worked out for me to be at the ballpark for one of those."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats.