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Rathbone bids farewell to baseball

 

Former MSBL player now spokeswoman for cancer

By Jeff McGaw MSBL National

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, Florida.

Always with a flair for self-promotion, Rathbone timed her retirement to coincide the 12th anniversary of her cancer surgery.

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 with HardBall.

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.

Rathbone’s retirement from baseball coincides with the launch of a new pastime – dragon boat racing. She’s joined a team of breast cancer survivors that will compete in the Rose Regatta in Las Vegas next October. Dragon boat racing involves roughly 50-foot long boats carrying upwards of 20 paddlers seated side-by-side. It has become a therapeutic pastime for survivors since a Doctor of Physical Therapy from the University of British Columbia, Dr. Don McKenzie, introduced the concept in 1996.

"I have a passion for it,” Rathbone said. "It’s pretty emotional to be on the team….but it’s also very rewarding.”

Comments on "Rathbone bids farewell to baseball" Comment on Rathbone bids farewell to baseball RSS Feed
Norine V. Rathbone
Steve, Brian and all you guys. Thank you for a great 12 years of competitive baseball. And thank you even more for saving my life. You were the best ever breast cancer support team that I needed to survive it. I could not have done it without all of you and my husband Ed leading the way. I wore my baseball uniform to my chemotherapy treatments back then for courage because you men in baseball gave me that courage when I didn't want to fight the cancer. All my love and respect forever, Norine www.ARealLivePinkBat.com My official breast cancer and baseball website www.auntweenieskitchenkoup.wordpress.com Because I am a cancer-fighting rebel with a cooking cause...
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