Pink Bats to Swing at Cancer
On Mother’s Day Major League Baseball Players will once again parade in pink in support of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Going to Bat for Breast Cancer campaign. Louisville Slugger has donated pink bats for players to swing on Mother’s Day. Players, coaches and umpires will be sporting pink trimmed spikes, wristbands and ribbon decals, a visible signal of solidarity in the ongoing struggle against breast cancer.
Cancer is not a “women’s issue”, but a health crisis that touches everyone at every walk of life: mothers and wives, husbands and sons, teachers, sisters as well as the families of many major league ball players.
I am one of the millions of women with a vested interest in the symbolic hope of a rose colored bat. Eighteen years ago, a decade after my own husband, Skip Lockwood, hung up his spikes and glove, I sat in a room grasping his hand as a doctor uttered unspeakable words: malignant tumor, metastasized, breast cancer, into the silence of his office. I looked into the eyes of the man who had fearlessly stared down Reggie Jackson, Willie Stargel and Pete Rose and saw the reflection of my own fears, my own confusion, my own resolve to take on a very different, infinitely more vital battle.
Breast cancer and professional baseball are not often mentioned in the same sentence. What we forget, or choose to ignore, is that these men who provide us such thrilling moments, for whom we can recite ERA’s, slugging percentages and second guess the manager for leaving a player in too long, these athletes that we put on a pedestal are also family men. Men who love, who grieve, who sit in doctor’s offices holding their wives hands while they face the unthinkable.
Every once in a while, the pedestal status of professional athletics provides the opportunity to make a real difference in the world outside of the ballpark. It allows major league baseball players to speak volumes through their chosen medium, and to highlight a cause that impacts nearly 182,500 women a year.
The visual image of a scruffy grown man holding a pink bat may seem strange, but the symbolism speaks volumes about the character of the man willing to put aside the need to look tough for a day and inspire a stadium full of fans to stop, think and help. This symbolic gesture has made a difference. Statistics confirm that thousands of people were screened for breast cancer in the weeks following Major League’s breast cancer awareness campaign last year.
We know that early detection is the key to success. The five-year survival rate for all women diagnosed with breast cancer is 90 percent. Most will live a full life and never have a recurrence. The chances are even better if the cancer is detected early, before it spreads to other parts of your body. I am a living and breathing testament to this success.
There was a time in my life that sporting a baseball cap (secured on my bald head with a colorful scarf) was more of a necessity than a choice. On May 9th, I will proudly choose to don my pale pink hat in support of the thousands of women who are fighting and surviving this struggle.
This Mother’s Day let us all put on our rally caps and join Major League Baseball and the Susan G. Komen for the Beyond a Pink Bat campaign as we rally to take a mighty swing at cancer.
Kathleen Lockwood, the wife of Major League pitcher Skip Lockwood, is a breast cancer survivor and the author of Major League Bride: An Inside Look at Life Outside of the Ballpark (McFarland & Co., 2010), which is available at RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, NH