NEW YORK -- When Nicole Malato was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, she found, in her own words, "that being a Mets fan and a baseball fan taught me a lot about fighting cancer."
"Ya Gotta Believe," became one of Malato's favorite phrases. "The game's not over till the bottom of the ninth," transformed into a rallying cry. "You win some, you lose some," helped her remain level.
Those were the types of inspirational thoughts that Malato included in her Honorary Bat Girl essay, which earned her a trip to Citi Field on Sunday as the Mets' 2013 representative in the Bat Girl program.
Malato enjoyed pregame batting practice on the field, meeting players such as catcher Anthony Recker, who spent time playing with her 4-year-old son. Malato, of Toms River, N.J., was able to soak in the Mother's Day atmosphere along with her husband and father, the whole lot of them Mets fans.
"I've been a lifetime Mets fan since I was a kid," said Malato, who says she is "going strong" in treatment. "Being here and being a part of this is amazing, because it's an opportunity to take two things that touch a lot of people's lives -- baseball and breast cancer -- and have them come together in one day."
Malato was one of 30 winners from a pool of entrants sharing inspirational stories to provide motivation in the fight against breast cancer. Fans selected the winners in conjunction with feedback from a judging panel consisting of MLB players CC Sabathia, Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen and Alex Gordon, as well as television personalities Maria Menounos and Sam Ryan.
Like the other winners, Malato spent time on the field during batting practice, exchanged the Mets' lineup card during a pregame ceremony in her honor, and received tickets to the game as well as pink MLB merchandise. She wore pink wristbands on both arms, complementing an "Honorary Bat Girl" Mets jersey.
Major League Baseball introduced its Honorary Bat Girl program in 2009 to raise additional awareness and support for its Mother's Day "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" initiative. In four years, cancer survivors have submitted more than 4,000 testimonials, with fans casting more than 10 million votes in support.
The program receives additional support from charitable programs including Stand Up to Cancer and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.