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Braves join MLB in raising breast cancer awareness

Braves join MLB in raising breast cancer awareness

ATLANTA -- Hot pink was the color of the day Sunday at Turner Field and throughout Major League Baseball.

For the ninth straight year, players on every Major League team were issued two pink bats by Louisville Slugger on Mother's Day as part of the MLB Going To Bat Against Breast Cancer Program.

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"Our efforts have made a difference," said Louisville Slugger CEO John Hillerich said. "The MLB Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer program is making a significant impact in the fight against this awful disease that has impacted millions of people.

"They've become the symbol of baseball on Mother's Day," he added. "It's heartwarming to watch MLB players embrace the opportunity to raise awareness and funds for MLB breast-cancer charities."

Each bat features the official MLB breast cancer awareness logo and the bats that are used Sunday will be auctioned off exclusively on MLB.com, with the proceeds helping the fight against breast cancer.

The bats appeared to have plenty of hits in them. Of the five starters who used the bats, four of them had hits, including Braves right fielder Jason Heyward, who hit a mammoth two-run homer in the seventh, and Cubs right fielder Nate Schierholtz, who drove in both of his club's runs with a double off the wall in right in the fourth.

Chicago first baseman Anthony Rizzo also had a single with a pink bat to push his on-base percentage to .401, and Cubs center fielder Ryan Kalish had a single to lead off the game. Pitcher Aaron Harang was the other Brave to appear with the bat. He went 0-for-2 -- he is 0-fer on the year -- but made contact both trips to the plate.

Fans can visit mlb.com to buy a pink bat and have their personalized message inscribed on it. For every personalized bat purchased, Louisville Slugger will donate $10 to MLB breast cancer charities.

Together, MLB, Louisville Slugger and other Mother's Day partners have raised more than $1 million since the program began in 2006.

In addition to the bats being special today, the Braves had a special Bat Girl.

Lori Smith, a Dunwoody, Ga., native and breast cancer survivor, did the honors.

Smith was the winner of the Honorary Bat Girl Contest, having overcome bilateral mastectomy, reconstruction radiation and 20 rounds of chemotherapy after being diagnosed on March 2, 2011. She eloquently described her courageous battle and victory over cancer, done while working two jobs. She has been free and clear for some 2 1/2 years. Her entry and all of the courageous stories can be found here.

Her story moved Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who part of the guest judging panel put together by MLB, which included Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, country music singer (and Braves fan) Jason Aldean and MLB Network host and reporter Sam Ryan.

"[Her story] kind of connected," he said. "She did a lot of radiation chemo just like the others, but for some reason, when I was reading her story, it kind of hit home. I had that connection instantly with her, so that's why I picked her."

As part of winning the contest, Smith got to meet Freeman before Sunday's game.

He was as pleased to meet her.

"She's an inspiration for all women that are going through cancer," he said. "She's a fighter and she won. So it's just nice to be able to meet her and to experience a special moment for her."

The Honorary Bat Girl Program has been in existence since 2009, with the purpose of helping increase breast cancer awareness, and further supporting Going To Bat Against Breast Cancer, an MLB-sponsored initiative that is partnered with Stand Up To Cancer and Susan G. Komen.

Freeman was honored to take part in the judging and is proud to be part of MLB's initiative.

"I went through a personal experience that I wouldn't wish upon anybody," said Freeman, who lost his mother to cancer after a heroic battle. "But it's an experience that I take with me and hopefully I can make some other people happy."

Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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