Pink-bat chance missed
Garko, others were to swing bats for breast cancer awareness
CLEVELAND -- Think pink.
That was supposed to be the theme at Progressive Field on Sunday. Instead, the Mother's Day salute got washed away under a rainstorm that pelted the field for most of the morning.
The pink bats that the Indians had planned to use went back into their boxes, much to the disappointment of manager Eric Wedge.
"Hopefully, they're going to reschedule it," Wedge said.
He wasn't talking about the ballgame against the Blue Jays, because it has been rescheduled for Monday as part of a traditional baseball doubleheader. Instead, Wedge was talking about Major League Baseball's league-wide initiative that raises the public's awareness about breast cancer.
The pink bats were a symbol of this effort to stamp out breast cancer.
Major Leaguers from Tampa Bay to Detroit to Los Angeles were using these pink Louisville Sluggers, and for the Indians, Ryan Garko had planned to be one of those players.
"Yeah, I had them all ready to go," he said. "I was excited to fire it up. I got three hits with the pink bats last year."
For Garko, the pink bats were to be a way to show his mother he was thinking about her on this Mother's Day, a celebration that turned 100 on Sunday.
"I'd love to see her," he said. "But obviously, with the job, you don't get a chance to see her."
Garko knew, however, that the pink bat carried a deeper importance than simply a tribute to mothers.
While the pink bats have turned into a yearly salute to all mothers, Major League Baseball is also using these pink bats as part of its "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer," an initiative that focuses the public's attention on breast cancer and also directs proceeds to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Fans play the next big role in this awareness campaign, because attention will now move to the MLB.com Auction and the gradual arrival of those pink bats that were used in games and then signed -- or just signed by entire teams.
Signed home plates and bases with the pink-ribbon logo will also be items at the online auction, which annually draw a frenzy. All proceeds again will go to Komen. It is a "rolling auction," so if you don't see a player's bat in the next few weeks, keep coming back because eventually most or all of them show up there.
Fans also can purchase their own personalized "Mother's Day 2008" pink bats right now for $79 apiece at the MLB.com Shop, with $10 from the sale of each one going to Komen.
"Breast cancer affects countless women and their families each year, and we at baseball feel fortunate to be able to use our game as a platform to help raise awareness in the ongoing fight to eradicate this disease," Commissioner Bud Selig said in announcing baseball's participation in the program this season.
Beyond the management level, ballplayers like Garko were trying to do their part, too.
"It brings a lot of attention to a cause and a lot of money to cancer awareness," he said. "It's something simple we can do to bring awareness to an issue that takes a lot of people's lives -- mothers and daughters and sisters.
"A lot of people have been affected by this disease."
Before any of those pink bats go up for auction, they were supposed to get a taste of big league life, and Garko and seven of his teammates had planned to make good use of these pink bats Sunday against the visiting Blue Jays.
Around the league, player after player had jumped aboard a campaign that does put awareness of breast cancer in the forefront of people's minds.
"I don't think a guy's a bad guy if he doesn't want to get involved in it," Garko said. "Everybody has their own reasons for doing things. But I think, as athletes, there are a lot of simple things we can do to help out a lot of different people."
Think pink is one of them, even if the event got washed out.
"The Indians do a great job with this," Wedge said. "The players and the wives do a great job of getting involved in the community and supporting different programs such as this.
"Hopefully, we'll still be able to pull it off."
Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.