The Baylor softball team's motto this year is "State championship on the field, fighting for Moore off the field." But the Lady Red Raiders will be "fighting for Moore" at their field Thursday.
Baylor is hosting neighboring Red Bank High School in a Hits for Hope fundraising game for breast-cancer awareness. One reason is that Kelly Moore, mother of junior shortstop and pitcher Sarah Moore, is in an ongoing battle with the disease.
"It will change your life in an instant," Kelly said. "You go from being happy and healthy to being a patient and a number label."
Sarah turned 16 last March 10 and got the horrible birthday present of her mother being diagnosed with breast cancer that day. Kelly has since been through two major rounds of chemotherapy, in addition to dealing with radiation treatments, and had a couple of hospital stays.
"It's been very rough," she said.
And no doubt rough on Sarah.
"It's just the type of kid Sarah is," Baylor coach Kelli Smith said. "She never mentioned it in practice. She never said a word."
It hasn't affected Sarah's play. She's 1-0 as a pitcher and has a .333 average with two homers and 12 RBIs batting leadoff for a 10-1 team.
The Baylor community knew the situation and Kelly said the support -- from the cards to the visits to the help with laundry -- has been huge. She made it to as many games as she could last year, noting she treasures a home run ball her daughter hit in the Lady Trojan Classic at Soddy Lake Kids' Park that sailed over the fence and practically came right to her. Text messages kept her informed about games she couldn't attend.
One competition she was determined to see last year was the Spring Fling in Murfreesboro. With assistance from her mother-in-law, a bald-headed Kelly skipped one chemo session, brought along an umbrella for sun protection and cheered on the Lady Raiders.
"No doubt in my mind she would be there," Smith said. "She had her hat on. She gave me a good-luck charm before we played. That's the kind of people they are. They're fighters."
As if fate rewarded her, Sarah pitched a shutout in the Division II-AA championship game.
"It meant a lot having her there because she had missed a lot of other games," Sarah said.
The Baylor softball family already had been devastated by breast cancer recently when Kaitlyn Phillips' mother, Dinkle McAdams, died before Kaitlyn graduated in 2010. With McAdams already ill when Phillips came to Baylor in the ninth grade, Smith began organizing a group to participate in September's Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. She and more than 60 others represented Baylor softball in the run in 2011. Kelly hopes to run with them this year.
She also hopes this Hits for Hope will be the first of many annual games. At Kelly's request, Thursday's proceeds, which will include donations and profits from concessions, will go to local social workers who have helped her so they can assist other local victims with expenses such as prescriptions and gasoline vouchers. Friday is a rain date, if necessary.
Baylor girls' basketball has been involved with a Hoops for Hope event the last three seasons. Other softball and volleyball programs, in particular, have been active the last few years with competitions raising money for the Komen charity or the MaryEllen Locher Foundation Scholarship Fund.
Kelly, who is meeting with surgeons today hoping for good news, said she's amazed how so many athletic programs have been willing to offer time and money to such worthy causes. The athletes are learning to support their community while being made aware that no family is immune to such a dreaded disease.
"It can change their lives at any moment," she said.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.