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Pirates to honor Bat Girl contest winner on Saturday

Major League Baseball announced the 30 winners of the 2013 Honorary Bat Girl Contest that recognizes baseball fans who have been affected by breast cancer and demonstrate a commitment to eradicating the disease. The winner of the Honorary Bat Girl Contest for the Pittsburgh Pirates is Maria Heddleston, who will be recognized in a pre-game ceremony before the Pirates vs. Houston Astros game on Saturday, May 18.

Maria is one of 30 winners, one per MLB Club, who will take part in pregame activities, be honored during an on-field ceremony, and will receive pink MLB merchandise and four tickets to the game. Maria will also receive a personalized Pirates Bat Girl jersey.

Maria's story is an inspiration to everyone as the compassionate wife, mother and teacher was diagnosed with Stage Four breast cancer that metastasized quickly. She has battled bravely through her struggles with the disease and treatments, and thrives while demonstrating her veracity and strength.

She is active in the Gilda's Club, Susan G. Koemen Foundation and supports literacy by partnering with ReadAloud.org. In 2012, Maria was chosen as one of eight Pink Power Moms that represent the many women battling cancer while continuing to demonstrate the ideals of family, love and service.

Fans across the country shared inspirational stories that provide hope and motivation in the fight against breast cancer, as well as the reasons they or their nominees should represent their favorite team.                        

The 30 Honorary Bat Girl winners were selected by fan votes on HonoraryBatGirl.com along with feedback from a Guest Judging Panel that included Pirates All- Star centerfielder Andrew McCutchen, CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees, Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals, Maria Menounos of Extra TV and Sam Ryan, MLB Network host and reporter.Louisville Slugger, the official bat of MLB, will introduce a new design element to their iconic pink bats that are used by hundreds of players throughout the League on Mother's Day. The hot pink color was introduced in 2012 and this year, it will include the new Louisville Slugger logo, which changed on MLB's Opening Day, marking the bat maker's first logo change in 33 years and only the second significant change in its 129 years in professional baseball.

Louisville Slugger and MLB first introduced the pink bat program on Mother's Day in 2006. Fans can obtain their own personalized pink bat by going to going to shop.mlb.com or sluggergifts.com. Game-used Louisville Slugger pink bats from Mother's Day games will be auctioned exclusively on MLB.com to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer.

To further demonstrate their support for the breast cancer cause, players and on-field personnel will wear the symbolic pink ribbon on their uniforms along with pink wrist bands. Commemorative base jewels and dugout lineup cards will also be pink.

The Honorary Bat Girl program was introduced in 2009 to raise additional awareness and support for the annual "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" initiative celebrated on Mother's Day. In four years, over 4,000 testimonials have been submitted and more than 10 million fan votes have been cast. Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer is a Major League Baseball initiative supported by its charitable partners Stand Up to Cancer, a charitable program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. This initiative has set out to raise awareness about the breast cancer cause and funds to support lifesaving breast cancer research.

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