Find a League In Your Area
Former MSBL player now spokeswoman for cancer
Norine Rathbone, one of a very few women to play in the
Men’s Senior Baseball League, and who was known to many as a photographer at
the MSBL’s Las Vegas tournaments, announced she is retiring from amateur
baseball to begin a new challenge – dragon boat racing.
The retirement of amateur players, especially those who
have not achieved household name status, does not typically merit media attention,
but over the past 12 years Rathbone carved her name into the MSBL tree trunk
first as a tournament photographer, then a player, and finally as an outspoken
advocate and supporter for breast cancer survivors – which she is -- in her
hometown of Las Vegas and beyond.
Rathbone embraced her status as a survivor, and was an
active advocate for survivors. She blogged tirelessly, and her story was
carried in the Las Vegas media and as far away as places like Lakeland,
Always with a flair for self-promotion, Rathbone timed
her retirement to coincide the 12th anniversary of her cancer
Rathbone began shooting pictures for then HardBall, the
MSBL’s former magazine, in 2000 at the age of 42. In that same year she joined
the Las Vegas Sandvipers of the Vegas Valley MSBL. Securing a place on the
roster was a longtime dream for the avowed Tomboy who had long ago been
relegated to softball leagues even though she preferred baseball.
On Dec. 6, 2000, her life changed dramatically when she
was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer.
A month later she underwent a double mastectomy. Clinging to the rocks in her
life, her husband Ed, and baseball, she endured six months of chemotherapy and
six weeks of radiation. She also clung to the thin branch of hope offered by
medical statisticians who said that if she lived five years past her surgery
she would have a great likelihood of reaching old age. "If I didn’t have
baseball to focus on I would have fell apart,” she said in a 2009 interview
In 2008 Rathbone was named "New Balance Honorary Athlete of the Year” through the
Southern Nevada Chapter of the Susan G. Komen For The Cure, a branch of the
31-year-old grass roots organization that is now one of the largest non-profit
sources of funds in the fight against breast cancer.
Rathbone soon turned her love of baseball into an
interesting megaphone in her ongoing fight for breast cancer awareness. When
the Komen foundation established its now famous Mother’s Day pink bat campaign
with Major League Baseball, Rathbone began a letter-writing campaign to every
major league baseball team. Major leaguers would carry pink bats to the plate
on Mother’s Day, and some women would be allowed to be bat girls. However,
Rathbone wrote to owners suggesting that they should boldly take the next step
in the battle by having a woman – her – sign a contract and make an actual
plate appearance in a major league game.
The Detroit Tigers answered the call. Sort of.
Dan Lunetta, then Director of Minor League Operations for
the Tigers, invited Rathbone to attend an open tryout on March 9th,
2009 at the Tigers spring training facility in Lakeland, Fla. Tiger officials
treated Rathbone with the same respect they afforded all of the attendees. The
story of this MSBL player and cancer survivor who was trying to break major
league baseball’s sex barrier got play in traditional and electronic media all
over the country.
"I’ve been married to baseball for so long,” Rathbone
said, adding that she’s also been married to her husband Ed now for 34 years.
In addition to advocating for breast cancer, Rathbone
wants to help spread the word about autism because she was recently diagnosed
with a high functioning form of the condition.
"I have a passion for it,” Rathbone said. "It’s pretty
emotional to be on the team….but it’s also very rewarding.”