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Mother's Day conjures up memories for Blanton

PHILADELPHIA -- Joe Blanton still remembers that Saturday afternoon in Oakland.

He pitched against the Rangers at McAfee Coliseum on Sept. 15, 2007, but before the game, the A's honored his mother, Carolyn Blanton, and his aunt, Dottie Rainwater, as breast cancer survivors during Breast Cancer Awareness Day.

They threw out the first pitches together.

"I got a win, too," Blanton recalled.

Blanton was a guest judge in baseball's 2012 Honorary Bat Girl program, which recognizes baseball fans affected by breast cancer. The Phillies will honor Barbie Brown before Sunday's game against the Padres at Citizens Bank Park.

Sunday is Mother's Day.

The holiday carries extra significance for Blanton after watching his mother and aunt beat cancer.

"I really don't know how to say it," he said. "It's such a tough thing to go through and they got through it. I think maybe they looked at that day in Oakland like, maybe somebody at the ballpark just found out they have cancer and they look at us and see a couple people that came through it. Kind of like, there's light at the end of the tunnel."

Both Carolyn and Dottie have remained cancer-free.

Blanton remembers leaving for his first big league Spring Training in 2003 when his mother was diagnosed. He remembers pitching for Class A Kane County during the season, when his mother started treatments.

It was an emotional roller coaster for Blanton, although baseball provided him a mental respite.

"When something like that is going on with your family, it's your getaway," he said. "It's your escape from reality for those three hours you're out on the field or six hours you're at the ballpark. That's your escape from reality, and you just kind of sell out on that. Your coping mechanism is to not think about it. It's to think about whatever you're doing at that time. Obviously it comes back that next day or when you leave or whatever."

"I wanted all of my family to continue with their lives as much as normal," Carolyn previously told "And I didn't want this to hurt [Joe's] career."

Asked how Mother's Day has changed for him and how Sunday might be different when he sees Brown on the field as the team's Honorary Bat Girl, Blanton said, "I think you just have a different look at the women on the field and what they're going through. I was away for most of that [in 2003], so I didn't get firsthand experience. It was during the season when she was going through chemo and all that. But still, just talking to her, you know how hard it is and what they're going through.

"Just talking to my mom, just the thought process some of them have because of it. It does make it different. You see them out there and where my mom is now, to know that she's years past that and seeing some of them out there without their hair ... they're going through the process now. That she is so far past, it makes you appreciate how strong she was to be able to go through it."

Philadelphia Phillies, Joe Blanton