My grandma, she passed away (from) breast cancer and my dad is going through cancer as well right now. For me, it (Pack the Park Pink) means a lot, especially not being able to meet my grandma but to still have my dad around. Him going through chemo, that’s a struggle. —Efren Navarro, Salt Lake Bees
SALT LAKE CITY —For one night, the Salt Lake Bees turned their field into a platform.
In black uniforms with pink sleeves, lettering and ribbon, the Bees raised both awareness and money for cancer research in the seventh-annual Pack the Park Pink night.
“Any time we’re able to support breast cancer awareness, it’s great for the community,” manager Keith Johnson said after the Bees lost to the Tucson Padres, 9-3, at Spring Mobile Ballpark.
“A number of people have been touched by cancer in all forms,” he continued. “It’s a good opportunity for us to try to do something to uplift spirits and take a bad, bad situation and maybe shed some positive light on it.”
The Bees did something on multiple levels Saturday. The players’ commemorative pink jerseys were auctioned off throughout the game and all proceeds were donated to the Huntsman Cancer Institute. A dollar from each game ticket sold was also donated, totaling $7,030. In conjunction with Swing for Life, the team sold pink memorabilia throughout the evening, which also benefited the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
The first 2,000 fans to the game were given pink team shirts; the Barracuda Baseball little league team took the field for the national anthem in their own pink uniforms; the Young Survivor Sisters sang the Star Spangled Banner; and the first pitch was thrown by Kathy Howa, Rowland Hall softball coach, cancer survivor and founder of Swing for Life.
“I just feel like it’s great for the community, great for the cancer survivors and patients,” said first baseman Efren Navarro. “I feel like it’s something special.”
The theme of the evening was particularly personal for Navarro, who, like many, has felt the effects of cancer within his own family.
“My grandma, she passed away (from) breast cancer and my dad is going through cancer as well right now,” he said. “For me, it (Pack the Park Pink) means a lot, especially not being able to meet my grandma but to still have my dad around. Him going through chemo, that’s a struggle.”
In spite of the larger-than-usual crowd, the Bees could not overcome a disastrous stretch across the fifth and sixth innings, giving up three and four runs, respectively. Starting pitcher Kip Wells suffered his second loss of the season, giving up three earned runs and four hits with five walks. Tucson starter Eddie Bonine earned the win despite giving up five walks in four innings.
Trent Oeltjen was the lone bright spot in the Bees’ lineup, accounting for two of the team’s seven total hits with a triple and a run scored. Jimmy Swift added a ninth-inning home run to finish 1 for 1 after coming off the bench. Andrew Romine was 1 for 4 in his first game back in Salt Lake.
With the loss, the Bees fell back to .500 on a 15-15 record and are even with the Padres, 5-5, on the season.
Padres 9, Bees 3
In short: Tucson scored seven quick runs across the fifth and sixth innings to establish its lead. Salt Lake center fielder Trent Oeltjen finished with two hits, including a triple, and Jimmy Swift added a ninth-inning homer, but the Bees struggled to string hits together for the remainder of the game.
Up next: vs. Tucson, today, 1:05 p.m. Padres LHP Robert Erlin (2-0, 4.73 ERA) vs. Bees RHP Orangel Arenas (1-4, 8.35 ERA)
Next homestand: May 16-19 vs. Nashville Sounds (Brewers)
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org