CLEVELAND -- Indians fan Jennifer Buckland never imagined she would become an Honorary Bat Girl for the Tribe, let alone throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Progressive Field on Mother's Day before the series finale against the Royals.The 43-year-old mother of two from Willoughby, Ohio, also never imagined she
CLEVELAND -- Indians fan Jennifer Buckland never imagined she would become an Honorary Bat Girl for the Tribe, let alone throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Progressive Field on Mother's Day before the series finale against the Royals.
The 43-year-old mother of two from Willoughby, Ohio, also never imagined she would fight for her life after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Buckland, a physical therapist at Cleveland Clinic Euclid Hospital, was named the Indians' Honorary Bat Girl as a part of Major League Baseball's annual "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" initiative, in which each team recognizes fans who have been affected by breast cancer and show their commitment to fighting the disease.
"When they approached me about this I was like, 'Heck yeah!'," Buckland said, smiling. "And now we're here, and it's great."
Fortunately, she's now living cancer-free. She was diagnosed after receiving her first mammogram at age 40 in May 2015, which led to a mastectomy, reconstructive surgery and 12 weeks of chemotherapy. She said she was selected for a study that provided early-stage breast cancer patients a cooling cap during chemotherapy, which helps patients keep their hair during treatment. The study was later published and reviewed and is now approved by the FDA.
"It truly is a marathon," said Buckland, who's training for the Cleveland Half Marathon. "Just when you think you've gotten over one hump, there's another hurdle. I just think of it as pacing yourself, like you would for running."
The Honorary Bat Girl Program was introduced in 2009 to raise awareness and support for survivors of breast cancer. Honorees this year were chosen by each team. In the past, applicants for the initiative were nominated by fans.
Buckland's story, like many others, has resonated with fans and players alike. To show support for fighting breast cancer, the Indians wore special edition pink hats, along with pink batting practice shirts and hoodies.
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Additionally, eight of the nine Indians starters also used pink bats, with the lone exception being outfielder Greg Allen, who was called up on May 6, and was unable to order a bat in time.
But Allen, like many other players, was grateful to celebrate such a special day.
"It's a day that we recognize to appreciate the mothers and the mother figures in our lives, but I think every day -- especially with my own mom, my grandma, and the people who have influenced me in that way -- [is a good day] to take time and appreciate them throughout your day and in life. But of all days throughout the year, this is definitely one of them."
MLB will donate its licensed merchandise royalties from Mother's Day apparel to Susan G. Komen and Stand Up To Cancer, which is celebrating its 10th season.
** Casey Harrison ** is a reporter for MLB.com.