MINNEAPOLIS — An annual Major League Baseball undertaking to provide exposure and money to cancer-awareness charities became embroiled in a bit of a controversy Friday, with an Oriole being one of the players inadvertently involved.
On Sunday, as part of its Mother's Day celebration, participating players will wear and use pink equipment — to bring more awareness to breast cancer issues — as they have since 2006. The items will then be auctioned off with proceeds going to charities including Susan G. Komen For The Cure, which has championed breast cancer research for decades.
The equipment used is from MLB's corporate sponsors in the initiative, including batmaker Louisville Slugger, which provides pink bats to the players.
Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis and Minnesota Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe, whose mothers are breast cancer survivors, wanted to participate in the program. But they were told that their black bats with pink logos — made by Minnesota manufacturer MaxBat and delivered on Friday — would not be permitted by Major League Baseball.
That had Plouffe, who tweeted his opposition to the decision, and Markakis a little unsettled.
"It would mean a little more to me with my mom being a breast cancer survivor and be able to support her in that way," said Markakis, whose mother, Mary Lou, beat breast cancer about a decade ago. "So I guess you could say it is a little disappointing. But I guess the rules are the rules, right?"
The reserved Markakis said he wasn't going to make an issue of the decision.
"If I said something [to MLB] would it really make a difference?" Markakis said. "No, I doubt it. Is what it is. You've got to abide by the rules, right?"
Spokesmen for both MLB and Louisville Slugger said players are allowed to use pink bats or partially pink bats by any manufacturer on Sunday so long as that company donated to the Komen fund. There also is another stipulation.
According to an MLB-wide memo that went out to all teams on April 3, the non-Louisville bats could not include "ribbons, corporate logos, distinguishing marks or names of charities." So Markakis' bat, for instance, would be permissible if it did not have the MaxBat logo in pink. If the label was pink but did not include a rival company's name, it would be fine for Sunday.
According to the MLB spokesman, Louisville Slugger has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars during the initiative for cancer charities and the league supports the stance that other pink bats can be used — just not with another company's logo.
"I don't know all the particulars so I should probably stay away from it," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I know Nick's got a pure heart about it for the right reasons, which he seems to always do. You got a bat you want to use for two reasons. One, you like the way the bat feels and you've had good luck with it in your career. And it also means a lot to you. I'm sure there are two sides of the story. Guess who I'll support?"