MLB teams up with Komen on Mother's Day
Pink bats return, Honorary Bat Girls to be honored on Sunday
It was only fitting that on the same day baseball celebrated Mother's Day on Sunday, the 19th perfect game in baseball history was thrown by A's left-hander Dallas Braden.
After all, who is more perfect than mothers?
No one, if you ask players around the league who paid tribute to mothers everywhere and helped raise breast cancer awareness by using specially designed pink bats on Sunday.
"I love the pink bats," said Orioles third baseman Miguel Tejada. "It's one day of the year to me that is always very special. It's the same game, but it's a special day. It's a great day and whatever we do great today, we will have it in mind for the whole year."
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 2010" pink bats right now for $79.99 apiece at the MLB.com Shop, with $10 from the sale of each one going to Komen.
Tejada was just one of many players who paid tribute to their mothers by using pink bats, but no one paid tribute quite like Braden on Mother's Day.
Braden didn't need a pink bat to raise awareness, but did it on the mound by retiring all 27 Rays batters he faced. And it was certainly special for Braden considering he lost his mother to cancer as a senior in high school and dedicated his start to her with his grandmother in attendance at the Oakland Coliseum.
After Braden recorded the last out of the game, he shared a long and tearful hug with his grandmother, who took him in after his mother's death.
"It hasn't been a joyous day for me in a while," Braden said after the game. "With my grandma in the stands, it makes it a lot better."
Braden's big day certainly had just as big an impact in raising awareness for breast cancer as fans from around the world tuned in for his historic outing. And awareness is the key to preventing breast cancer, which currently affects one out of eight women.
"Awareness is the first step, and if it is only a couple of people's lives we save, then it's definitely worth it," Tigers outfielder Johnny Damon said. "Maybe some fans will say, 'Why don't we get checked out?' Hopefully we can save a lot of people, especially the ones who may be at the early stages and don't even know it."
So while Damon helped raise that awareness by using a pink bat in the Tigers' 7-4 loss to the Indians, he was far from the only one as we take a look around the league:
In Minnesota, Denard Span went 3-for-4 with a triple while using a pink bat and jokingly said he may have to call up Louisville Slugger to see if they can special order him more.
"I kind of want to keep it," Span said. "I had three hits today. I don't want to swing the bat I had yesterday, that bat is going into the garbage today because it isn't bringing me any luck."
Span's teammates also fared well as nine of their 12 hits came from players who had pink bats, and it led to a 6-0 win over the Orioles. But even with the loss, Orioles manager Dave Trembley loved what the day stood for.
"[Breast cancer] affects a lot of people; I know a lot of people in baseball whose families have been affected," Trembley said. "But Major League Baseball has made tremendous strides over the last few years of doing a lot of positive things and raising a lot of money to make things better for everybody. And I think [the Susan G. Komen for the Cure] is probably one of the more worthwhile causes. It's just tremendous I think, tremendous."
In Chicago, Blue Jays outfielder Fred Lewis had a little magic in his pink bat when he hit a three-run home run in the ninth inning to lead Toronto to a dramatic 9-7 win over the White Sox.
It was especially magical for Lewis considering he put the pink bat away and went back to his usual lumber after his first at-bat before deciding to use his pink bat in that critical at-bat in the ninth inning.
"I used it the first time and it felt funny," Lewis said. "But I said, 'I started with you, I'm going to finish with you.' So I said, 'Go up there, get a pitch to hit and see how far you can hit it.'"
In Washington, Adam Dunn entered the Nationals' game against the Marlins hitless in his previous six at-bats, but turned to his pink bat for help.
Dunn went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI to help lead the Nationals to a 3-2 win over the Marlins.
"It seems like every Mother's Day, I've had a pretty good Mother's Day using the pink bats," Dunn said. "I wish I could use them all year."
But he wasn't the only one to pitch in with three hits, as Marlins outfielder Chris Coghlan recorded his first three-hit game of the year with his pink bat.
"I think it's great that baseball allows us to use pink bats to show our appreciation to all our mothers," Coghlan said. "It means a lot to me. I called my mom this morning. I sent her some flowers."
In Philadelphia, Braves outfielder Matt Diaz paid tribute to his wife's aunt, who lost her fight with breast cancer in 2004, by using a pink bat.
Diaz went 0-for-4 at the plate in the game, but he knew that raising awareness was much more important than how he did offensively.
"It's terrible to say, but you hear about breast cancer and immediately you think treatable because you always see the women who have survived it on the walks and everything," Diaz said. "Aunt Sandra didn't really have a shot. It hit hard. It hit fast and it killed. It's important that we keep bringing awareness to it."
The Braves combined to go 7-for-29 with the pink bats, but ultimately fell to the Phillies, 5-3, at Citizens Bank Park.
In New York, the pink bats didn't exactly help Mets hitters against two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum in their 6-5 loss, but infielder Alex Cora didn't seem to mind because of the far-reaching effects of using the pink bats.
"It's great, whoever came up with the idea to raise awareness for breast cancer, it's unreal, and all the money we raise -- it's outstanding," Cora said. "If they decided to use the bat 162 games just for the cause, I'd do it."
Meanwhile, Giants infielder Pablo Sandoval even donned a pink glove to go along with pink wristbands and a pink bat in honor of his mother.
"She means everything to me," Sandoval said. "Without her, I wouldn't be here. She supported me every day when I was little. She took me to the field for practice every day. To put what she means in one word, I can't imagine."
In Texas, it was a special day for reliever Doug Mathis, who celebrated the fact that his mother is now cancer-free after battling breast cancer for seven years. The sight of pink bats choked up Mathis, who ended up pitching two scoreless innings to get the win over the Royals.
"My mother has been through a lot," Mathis said. "This is the day where everybody wears pink, so it was hard to get her off my mind,"
In Cleveland, Indians infielder Andy Marte talked pregame about how special his first start on Mother's Day would be and how excited he was to use a pink bat.
"I've never had a chance to play on Mother's Day," Marte said "I want to do this for my mom and see what happens." Marte made the most of it by hitting a two-run triple with his pink bat in the Indians' 7-4 win over the Tigers. In Pittsburgh, the Cardinals got a rare win on Mother's Day, as the club improved to 19-33 on the holiday over the last 50 years with an 11-2 win over the Pirates. Joe Mather was the lone starter to use a pink bat for the Cardinals, while the Pirates' Jeff Clement, Akinori Iwamura and Delwyn Young all used pink bats.
"It's great to be able to use it and pay tribute to my mother and all that she's meant to me, and also because the bats are going to a good cause," Clement said. "It's a great cause with the money that is going to be raised by the bats being auctioned off. It's the exact same as my regular model, so there is no reason for me not to use it." In Cincinnati, in the Reds' 5-3 victory over the Cubs, a majority of the Reds starting lineup utilized pink lumber -- including Orlando Cabrera, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, Jonny Gomes and Ramon Hernandez.
"It means an awful lot," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "I lost my mother-in-law a few years ago to breast cancer. I have a special place in my heart for that. I was thinking about my wife today and I know she must be missing her mother."
In Los Angeles, a pitchers' duel between the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez and the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw prevented much offense coming from the players utilizing pink bats.
Five of the nine Rockies used the pink bats, but could only muster two infield singles off Kershaw. The lone player in the game with success with a pink bat was Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, who came through in a big way with a solo home run in the Dodgers' 2-0 win.
"It's for my mom, I know my mom was right there with me when I hit," Martin said. "I didn't get her any gifts for Mother's Day, so I thought I'd try to hit her a home run."
In Houston, both the Padres and Astros saw many of their players don pink wristbands, batting gloves, and titanium wristbands to go along with the pink bats in the Astros' 4-3 win.
"It's definitely important," said Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr., who had two hits and drove in a run with a pink bat. "There's so many women out there who are struggling with this disease. It's important to make everyone aware of it. I'm all for it."
In Seattle, shortstop Jack Wilson shined with his pink bat, as he went 3-for-3 with a three-run home run and a triple in the Mariners' 8-1 win over the Angels.
Wilson called the bat "magic" and joked he wanted to take it with him on the club's upcoming road trip in Baltimore.
"I doubt that they would let me use it again, but I might take it, just in case. Anything we can do to raise cancer awareness is awesome," he said.
In Arizona, the pink bats paid dividends for the Brewers as Prince Fielder, Casey McGehee and Gregg Zaun all homered with the specially designed lumber in their 6-1 win over the D-backs.
"It's great to be part of something that's a great cause," Fielder said. "Cancer is a terrible thing, something you wouldn't wish on anything. If you can do something [to fight] it, even if it's something very little, it feels good." Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher wanted to let his mom know that he was thinking about her during Sunday's Yankees-Red Sox tilt, so before his first at-bat he stepped out of the batter's box and removed his helmet.
Then he used a pink Louisville Slugger bat to send a home run soaring over the Green Monster in left field.
"Today was the first game that she was able to [watch] because she's been traveling around, and she told me, 'You better do something your first at-bat to let me know you're thinking about me,'" Swisher said. "I know she was watching tonight. It was very, very meaningful for me."
Swisher has been an active participant -- in 2008 with the White Sox, Swisher dyed his goatee pink on Mother's Day to raise awareness for breast cancer -- since he lost his grandmother, Betty, to cancer in 2005.
Five of the Yankees' seven hits on Sunday came off of pink bats -- in addition to Swisher's homer and eighth-inning single, Robinson Cano had two hits, including a run-scoring single and Brett Gardner also notched a hit.
Yankees right-hander Joba Chamberlain also wore a special necklace with the breast cancer awareness ribbon, to be auctioned at a later date to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Jesse Sanchez and Mark Newman contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.