PITTSBURGH -- The Nationals and Major League Baseball have announced Laurie Jo Neary as the winner of the team's 2012 Honorary Bat Girl program, which recognizes baseball fans who have been affected by breast cancer and demonstrate a commitment to "Going to Bat" in the fight against the disease.
Diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in 2008, Laurie Jo -- a mother of three -- underwent several surgeries as well as chemotherapy and radiation to treat her cancer. As a breast cancer survivor, she has participated in and organized a number of walks and 5Ks to raise funds for cancer research. In addition, Laurie Jo has blogged about her journey from breast cancer patient to survivor to help other patients.
"We are so proud to have Laurie Jo as the Nationals' Honorary Bat Girl," said Israel Negron, senior director of community relations for the Nationals. "As a cancer survivor, she has found creative channels to raise awareness and help others who are fighting the disease. Her journey is inspiring and we look forward to honoring her."
With the Nationals on the road on Mother's Day, Laurie Jo will be honored during pregame ceremonies on Sunday, May 20, before the Nationals face the Baltimore Orioles at Nationals Park. Laurie Jo is one of the 30 winners, one for each MLB Club, and will receive a personalized Nationals bat girl jersey featuring a pink ribbon and tickets to the game.
The Honorary Bat Girl Contest was introduced in 2009 to raise additional awareness and support for the annual Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer initiative celebrated on Mother's Day, which Major League Baseball created in 2006.
"First I have to tell you I was floored when my three-day walk team, 'The 2nd Base Coaches' nominated me for this honor, and I cried when I read what they wrote," Neary said. "Then to get the call from the MLB that I had actually won, I was floored!!! I had to excuse myself for a second to scream! I feel so blessed to have the support system that I do and the love of all of my family and friends, not only during my treatment, but now as well as I take steps to raise funds and awareness of breast cancer. I am so excited that I get to share the field with the Washington Nationals, and just hope my knees don't give out."
The guest judging panel that helped select Laurie Jo and the other winners included MLB players Joe Blanton of the Phillies, whose mom is a breast cancer survivor; Jason Heyward of the Braves, whose aunt passed away from lung cancer; Howie Kendrick of the Angels of Anaheim, whose best friend's mom is a breast cancer survivor; and Barry Zito of the San Francisco Giants, whose mom was affected by cancer. Also on the panel was MLB Network host Chris Rose, who has several close friends who have been affected by the disease; international soccer star Mia Hamm, supporter of the Honorary Bat Girl Initiative with former MLB player and current ESPN analyst Nomar Garciaparra, whose grandmother passed away from breast cancer; and actor James Denton of Desperate Housewives, who lost his mother to breast cancer.