March 26, 2016
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
“It’s just a game” is usually reserved for trying to make someone feel better after having a bad day on the field.
On Saturday afternoon at Mewborn Field, the expression will be used more as a life-lesson and have little to do with on-the-field results. Georgia Tech softball’s series-concluding doubleheader against Virginia Tech, will take on greater purpose as it’s the Yellow Jackets’ annual StrikeOut Cancer games, with the overriding goal to raise money for Breast Cancer Awareness.
Of course, Tech will be out to win. In fact, Head Coach Shelly Hoerner suggests that the magnitude of the day may give her team even greater focus. They’ll be wearing pink but seeing red in a day dedicated to fighting cancer and raising awareness. It’s a fight they take quite personally and a cause that means a great deal.
“Pink Day is always just a wonderful day,” said Hoerner. “For us to be able to play in honor of these individuals who have fought breast cancer or continue to fight breast cancer or are survivors, it’s a wonderful opportunity for our team to be able to show and support Breast Cancer Awareness.
“Whether you are having to fight this awful disease or not, it’s part of our softball family so there will be a little extra fight, to play in honor of those individuals,” she added. “It’s a special day for Georgia Tech Softball. It’s a special day all around the country, everyone that does this and supports Breast Cancer Awareness, it’s just amazing. Any type of cancer is awful and I don’t wish it upon anyone. But it puts life in perspective when we’re playing the game. It’s a GAME. Cancer is about life. This is a game so we have to continue to put that in perspective. So I think this is a great way for our team to really realize what life is all about.”
Adding emphasis to that point is Georgia Tech Assistant Vice President and Chief of Staff in the Office of the President Lynn Durham, a breast cancer survivor, who has been invited to throw out the first pitch.
“We thought it would be a great way to show our support for her to throw out the first pitch,” said Hoerner. “She’s such a supporter of Georgia Tech Athletics and Georgia Tech Softball. This is a way for us to show how much we appreciate everything she does and we appreciate her being a survivor and a fighter to beat this terrible disease.”
Hoerner hopes the fighting spirit of Durham and those like her who have successfully battled the disease or those courageously battling it, will inspire fans to come out Saturday donning pink and contributing to the cause.
“We hope that people will come out and be in a giving mood in wanting to support Breast Cancer Awareness and we want everyone to wear pink,” she said. “There will be a lot of pink on tomorrow. I urge everybody to wear pink. We want as much support as we can for those fighting the disease or who have survived it.”
The Jackets will auction off their game-worn jerseys to further raise money. The auction begins at noon on Saturday and runs through noon on April 9. Bidding starts at $50 and can be raised in $10 increments. All the net proceeds from the auction and from donations collected on Saturday at the games will go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
“The bidding will go on for a couple of weeks and it’s a great opportunity for people around the country to be able to support Georgia Tech Softball even if they’re not in-house,” said Hoerner. “I think the auction is a great way to raise money for Breast Cancer Awareness. Obviously, Breast Cancer Awareness hits home within the Georgia Tech Softball family and I just think it’s great way to honor these individuals.”
Hoerner hopes the day will teach an even greater lesson to the team about the scourge that is breast cancer, one that goes beyond the softball field.
“Any way we can spread the word about Breast Cancer Awareness or any type of cancer awareness is just critical,” she said. “All the children with cancer, nobody deserves this. To see people struggle and fight, it is just eye-opening. If I can help teach our players anything, it’s just have your eyes wide-open to things. Don’t be naive, and see the perspective on things. Again, [softball] is a game. Life is not a game. I hope that they learn something every time we discuss cancer awareness.”
While just a game, they still count in the standings and the Jackets will be out to win them and build on the momentum they gained over the last week-plus away from the ACC, a stretch that saw them go 7-3.
“We have a lot of confidence right now,” said Hoerner. “I’m really proud of the team. We’ve had a tough two weeks, playing a lot of games and we’ve just fought through as a team. I think that’s important. It’s all about the team. It’s the little things. If someone’s not performing someone else is going to be performing. I think we saw that over the past 10 games.
“Every time you can win a game I think that only helps your team continue to get better,” she added. “Stepping away and being able to play all those other teams and spending some time in Florida and some warm weather was great for the team. We got our minds away from ACC play. It was good for the team, confidence-wise, really all around, from our pitching to our hitting and our defense was great. I’m really excited for what we continue to build.”
Saturday also will have something for the kids, as between games they will get a chance to hone their Spring Egg Hunting skills, in a team-sponsored Spring Egg Hunt.
“This is a great time for kids and just fun, living life to the fullest,” said Hoerner. “Being able to do fun things and being able to have kids on our facility being able to do this, it just brings joy to everybody. I know our team loves kids. We won’t be involved in this but I know they will love what is being done to help kids have fun at Easter time.”