ST. PETERSBURG -- Cauney Bamberg had been getting pitching advice from her son, Chance, but she was still nervous as the crowd at Tropicana Field offered a round of applause Sunday afternoon.
She took the ball in her left hand, stood just in front of the mound and fired the ceremonial first pitch well wide of Rays catcher Jose Lobaton. But she smiled as she walked off the field and into the stands, as she should have.
Bamberg, a breast cancer survivor from Winter Haven, Fla., was one of 30 Honorary Bat Girls across Major League Baseball who demonstrated a commitment to eradicating the disease. She was recognized alongside her family in a pregame ceremony before Tampa Bay's game Sunday against San Diego.
"It was incredibly cool; I'm so embarrassed that I didn't get to honor the moment," she said, laughing about her pitch to Lobaton. "My son's been a baseball player all his life, so baseball's in our family and we're surrounded by it and we love the Rays. So it was a real privilege to be out there."
Bamberg has worked as a volunteer for Susan G. Komen for the Cure for several years, and the organization nominated her to be the Rays' Honorary Bat Girl. Bamberg and the other 29 winners were selected by a fan vote on HonoraryBatGirl.com, along with feedback from a guest judging panel that included Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, TV personality Maria Menounos and MLB Network's Sam Ryan.
The program was introduced in 2009 to raise awareness and support for baseball's annual "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" initiative, which is celebrated each Mother's Day. The initiative is supported by Major League Baseball's charitable partners Stand Up to Cancer and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, where Bamberg has done the majority of her work to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research.
Two years ago, the organization came to Bamberg's community with an idea of bringing a race to Polk County. She began brainstorming, trying to think of ways to get the idea off the ground. And in 2012, she organized the first Komen Florida Suncoast Polk Race for the Cure, just before being diagnosed with Stage 1 invasive breast cancer.
She went through surgery and radiation treatments, but she pressed on, still serving as the chair for the second annual Polk Race for the Cure and continuing her work as an advocate for breast cancer survivors.
"It took about a year of planning to get the first one off the ground, but our community embraced it because funds that are raised from that event go back into our community to help pay for mammograms for women who can't afford them," Bamberg said. "So it was a really important event for us to get into our community."