MINNEAPOLIS -- This year, like every other year, Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis will collect his pink bats and send them home ticketed for his mother, Mary Lou.
Mary Lou is a breast cancer survivor, having beat the disease while Nick was in college, and MLB's awareness -- which always coincides with Mother's Day -- provides an opportunity for the prevention and treatment to take center stage.
"I try to do as much as I can for her, because I know how much it means to her," Markakis said. "It's completely different; I can sit here and say it's a good cause and not know anything about it. But when you see somebody go through it ... . I used to drive my mom to her chemo treatments. And on the way home, you see what it takes out of them. You get a whole different perspective on it."
Last year, Markakis decided not to use his specially made MaxBat black bat with a pink label on Mother's Day, donning pink cleats, wristbands and batting gloves instead. He used his regular MaxBat, with an orange label, to avoid what likely would have been a fine in a mini-controversy in which Minnesota's Trevor Plouffe -- whose mother is also a breast cancer survivor -- went ahead and used his pink labeled bat.
The issue was that Louisville Slugger produces the special pink bats for MLB so other companies' pink bats can only be used if there's no visible logos or other markings. Markakis is hoping this year to be able to use the bat he gives to Mary Lou after Mother's Day, although his efforts in raising cancer funds far exceed the holiday.
Markakis is also the Orioles' representative for Cardinals pitcher Jason Motte's "Strike Out Cancer" initiative, which raises money and awareness through T-shirt sales.
The website 108stitches.com went live in March, with 108 Stitches showcasing the "Strike Out Cancer" tees in each team's colors. Each participating player has chosen a charity that will benefit from the T-shirts sales, and for each shirt sold, $5 will go to the Jason Motte Foundation and $5 to a charity of that player's choice. The O's black T-shirts are all a popular fixture among the players in the clubhouse, who were all affected by the passing of popular public relations director Monica Barlow --who had Stage IV lung cancer -- this spring.
Major League Baseball, which supports the Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) initiative in the winter, started the tradition in 2006 of using pink gear on Mother's Day, and some of the bats will be auctioned off afterwards to raise even more money for the cause.
"It's a big cause and more and more people are getting diagnosed with it," Markakis said of the fight against breast cancer. "But it is beatable, it's treatable and that's the awesome thing about it.
"These types of things in general are good, but in my case, a little more meaningful to me because of what I've seen my mom go through. And what it does to a person, what it takes out of them. Besides being a great cause, it's a little more meaningful to me."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli.