Rays sport pink in Mother's Day tribute
Seven starters use special bats; Nelson trims spikes pink
BOSTON -- Pink bats were the order of the day on Sunday night at Fenway Park, as Rays players happily participated in the yearly Mother's Day tribute.
Pink bats have become annual Mother's Day symbols as part of an overall "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" initiative by Major League Baseball that raises awareness about breast cancer and directs proceeds to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Fans play the next big role in this process, because attention will move now to the MLB.com Auction and the gradual arrival of game-used pink bats, home plates and logo bases and lineup cards. Fans also can purchase their own personalized "Mother's Day 2009" pink bats right now for $79.99 apiece at the MLB.com Shop, with $10 from the sale of each one going to Komen.
While pink bats cluttered the Rays' bat rack, the shoes on reliever Joe Nelson shared the message.
Since Nelson knew he would not be stepping to the plate with a pink bat, he wore black shoes trimmed in pink to honor his mother and wife.
"Mother's Day is very important to me became my mom and my wife are by far the two greatest mothers I know," Nelson said. "My wife to my kids and my mom to me. She's the one who drove me to Little League and all of the sporting events."
Paula Rodriguez, Nelson's mother, is a breast cancer survivor.
"She made it seem like it was completely insignificant," said Nelson, noting he was 12 when she was diagnosed. "As you get older, you realize it would have been more significant.
"My mom being my mom tried to make it out like it wasn't a huge deal. But Mother's Day, it's a good holiday. And I'm never with her on Mother's Day because it's during the season. So I told her it's an ESPN game, make sure you take a look at my shoes. They're pink, signifying something for you. And I told my wife the same thing."
Of the Rays starters for Sunday night's game, Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, Willy Aybar, Ben Zobrist, Akinori Iwamura, Jason Bartlett and Dioner Navarro all used pink bats. Navarro became the first Rays hitter to crack his bat when Red Sox starter Josh Beckett sawed him off in the second inning, resulting in a groundout to first base.
B.J. Upton, who did not use a pink bat, did wear a pink necklace and pink wristbands, as did many of the Rays.
Cancer awareness is a cause close to Iwamura's heart.
"My mother passed away with cancer," Iwamura said. "Not breast cancer. But she had cancer and passed away. So I take it very personally. I'd like to contribute whatever is needed."
Zobrist thought the gesture of using pink bats was "very cool."
"I think it's a great idea to recognize mothers and breast cancer awareness," Zobrist said.
Crawford, who had the first hit of the evening with a pink bat, added: "It's for a good cause, so I'm always ready to help out. I'll use pink when it's for a good cause."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.