It took a mighty cause to get two of baseball's best, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, together on a brisk April afternoon in the Bronx. No, it's not because the storied "House That Ruth Built" will be torn down after this, its final season. It is actually something even bigger than that: It's a Mother's Day promotion to fight breast cancer.
Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts, shows up at the stadium with a camera crew to film a segment for Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer, a special program started by Major League Baseball and Susan G. Komen for the Cure that generates awareness about breast cancer and will raise funds at baseball games on Sunday, May 11. Standing in the on-deck circle, Roberts tries not to shiver. Jeter walks over and hugs her. "It's cold out here," she tells the Yankees captain. "How do you play in this weather?"
"This is football weather," Jeter says, with a smile. He calls over Rodriguez. "A-Rod," like many of his teammates, has fond memories of Roberts from her days at ESPN.
Roberts was diagnosed with breast cancer less than a year ago, and she is dressed in pink: sweater, sneakers and baseball cap. The wig she normally wears on air is left behind. "I really appreciate your time like this.... It's not like you're busy or anything," she says, kidding the guys.
It has been an emotional journey for Roberts, 47, who recently finished chemotherapy treatments and radiation. She says she feels great and is excited to be involved in Going to Bat. "It's fantastic that these world-class athletes are involved in an initiative like this," she says. "It helps bring attention to the problem."
Jeter, too, has his own reason to be here. He thought cancer only affected "someone really old" until his sister was diagnosed in 2000, just before her 21st birthday. "She's doing well," he says. "She battled, she's cancer-free right now, and I'm happy to say that."
To raise money for Going to Bat, Jeter, Rodriguez and Roberts each have signed pink Louisville Slugger bats, like the ones hundreds of players will use this Mother's Day, to be auctioned off for the cause (see above). Says Rodriguez: "We're all very fortunate to play this game, and we realize how important baseball is, yet how trivial it really is in the scope of things."
This year, Going to Bat -- known as "Pink Bat Day" -- hopes to raise at least $250,000 to cure breast cancer, which will claim the lives of an estimated 40,000 women and 450 men in 2008. "Most people wouldn't put breast cancer and baseball together, but it's a natural fit," says Komen founder Nancy Brinker, noting that almost half of baseball's fans are female. "It's especially true on Mother's Day, when we reflect on how much the women in our lives have affected us.""It's fantastic that these world-class athletes are involved in an initiative like this. It helps bring attention to the problem."