Clay Pugh wasn’t looking for a unique Mother’s Day gift for his wife, Kami, when he logged onto the computer a few months ago to buy Atlanta Braves tickets.
While visiting the Braves’ Web site, Pugh noticed an advertisement for Major League Baseball’s Mother’s Day event to raise money and awareness for breast cancer. The ad promoted a contest to find honorary bat girls for all 30 major league teams. The bat girls would be chosen from women who had survived the disease.
“I thought this would be a neat little Mother’s Day gift,” he said. “I had to submit a story. I was hoping that I’d win, and I was going to try to do it as a surprise. But you can’t just write something without the other party knowing.”
Kami Pugh’s surprise came a month early when she received an e-mail from Major League Baseball, telling her she was a finalist for the contest.
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Her Mother’s Day gift comes to fruition tonight when she serves as the Braves’ honorary bat girl in their game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at 7:30 p.m. in Atlanta.
Normally, everything takes place on Mother’s Day, but the Braves were on the road that day. So tonight is Pugh’s big night.
The Pugh family, of Gray, will get to attend batting practice before the game and meet the Braves players. They also will be given four tickets to the game. Kami will get to present the lineup cards to the managers and the umpires just before the game begins.
“I was really surprised to be picked,” Pugh, 35, said. “It didn’t surprise me that my husband would nominate me.”
Matt Bourne, a spokesman for Major League Baseball, said the organization wanted to find ways to raise breast cancer awareness.
“It’s really been rewarding to see these people with such inspirational stories and to see the looks on their faces when they get to go on the field and meet the players and coaches,” he said.
Carrie Glasscock, manager of corporate relations for the Susan G. Komen For The Cure, said her organization’s partnership with Major League Baseball is a great way to reach a huge number of fans.
“It’s been absolutely amazing. Baseball is America’s pastime, after all,” she said. “Seeing on TV the pink bats, the pink bases and wristbands, it’s helped us reach millions of people. If just one woman sees that and is reminded to get a breast exam, it’s absolutely worth it.”
Officials said Major League Baseball has raised more than $1 million for breast cancer since 2006.
Nearly 1,000 nominations were sent in through the Web site this year, and nearly four million people voted for the bat girl candidates for all 30 teams.
Kami Pugh already was aware of what baseball does to promote breast cancer awareness. In fact, she received an autographed pink bat from her brother in 2007 from his friend, Boston Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew.
Kami Pugh was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, a few months before her son, Cayden, was born. She was performing a self-diagnosis when she felt a lump. But her physician at the time wasn’t able to find anything amiss.
About six months after Cayden’s birth, Pugh felt it again. This time, a different physician eventually found the tumor after a series of tests. She began chemotherapy the next day.
Over the next six and a half months, Pugh would undergo 16 chemotherapy treatments and 33 radiation treatments. She had both breasts removed, and since then has undergone multiple reconstructive surgeries.
Pugh is now closing in on five years of being cancer-free.
Both Kami and Clay work as cardiac nurses at The Medical Center of Central Georgia. Clay said their medical background made it easier to know which questions to ask, but it was still a difficult time for them.
He credited the local Bunko For Breast Cancer group with helping both of them. They’ve remained active in the group, and Clay heads up a support group for men whose wives are facing breast cancer. The group is called Men In Pink.
“It blows you out of the water,” Clay said. “When you are dealing with a family member or loved one, your nursing skills go right out the door. My big advice (for other men) is to listen to your wife, to cry with them, to be a sounding board for them. Everybody deals with this differently.”
Kami Pugh also has important advice for women, since it likely saved her life.
“I’m a strong believer in breast exams and going with your gut,” she said. “You know your body better than anyone else.”