By Anne Jewell, VP, Executive Director.
As we like to say around here, “Real Men Swing Pink.”
When our company first proposed making pink bats for major league players to use on Mother’s Day, we didn’t know how it would go over. Even though the game-used bats would be auctioned off to raise money for breast cancer research, would any ballplayers really be “man enough” to step up to the plate sporting a pink Louisville Slugger bat?
Derek Jeter was one of the first to say, “yes.”
As you can see below, the pink started out more pastel but it’s always been a bold statement, especially in the hands of a hero like Jeter.
Thanks to his early leadership on this battlefront, the pink bat tradition has raised millions of dollars in the fight against breast cancer. And 12 years later, not only will hot pink be the bat du jour once again on Mother’s Day, but Jeter’s jersey number will also be retired by the New York Yankees.
Future Hall of Famer in the House
February, 2001. I was kneeling on our factory floor, eye level with some bat carts and trying to stay out of the way. Wielding a cheap camera (the best our museum could afford at the time), and beneath bad lighting (it is a factory, after all), I hoped to get a few unobtrusive shots of Derek Jeter as he toured our plant. All the real media had departed. It was just me on the concrete with a piece of equipment not far removed from the camera obscura I made for my 7th grade science project.
As he stopped to sign a baseball for one of our factory workers a few feet from me, Jeter gracefully turned my way, looked right at me, and struck a relaxed pose. His easy, casual move kind of took my breath away. I didn’t expect him to notice me, and I needed a few seconds to process that A) Derek Jeter is looking at me and B) Derek Jeter is now graciously waiting for me – the nobody on the floor – to snap out of it so I can snap a picture of him.
I stood up and took this shot:
It was a small moment but I felt it said a lot about the 26-year-old superstar. His natural ease in the limelight, combined with a down-to-earth, open demeanor, has produced one of baseball’s greatest ambassadors ever.
The Power of Pink
Five years later, in 2006, Jeter helped lead the way with our “Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer” initiative. What started as, “Well, let’s see how this goes,” quickly exploded into, “Wow! We’ve created a phenomenon!”
The public clamored for their own pink bats, and we’d not had time to prepare for that. The first fundraising promotion was pulled together in very short order. It was a push just to get the bats done in time for the players.
But hundreds of phone calls and messages were pouring into every department of our building from across the country. People wanted these bats to honor their own mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, and friends. As quickly as we could, we created a personalized pink bat option for the public that also benefitted the breast cancer fight, and these bats have been available year round ever since.
#2 is #1 This Mother’s Day
My mom loves to tell people she got to see Derek Jeter’s bats being made when she toured our factory. When I talk with her this Mother’s Day I know one topic will be the Yankees’ pre-game ceremony that day saluting “The Captain” with the retirement of his #2 jersey.
Such an honor is always special. It just seems extra rosy that it’s happening for Jeter on Mother’s Day, when his actions over the years have helped raise millions of dollars to battle breast cancer.
My mom batted down the disease thanks to the kinds of advances in detection and treatment supported by the “Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer” initiative, and I’m tickled pink that she and I can share in Jeter’s celebration on Sunday.
Editor’s Note: This weekend we salute Derek Jeter on Saturday, May 13, when our first 500 guests receive a special mini-bat branded with his signature. On Mother’s Day, all moms get free admission and a beautiful pink mini-bat designed just for them.