The big moment was six days away and Shari Elliott was already feeling pre-game jitters.
The 50-year-old mother of two and Tampa Bay Rays’ fan is throwing out the first pitch at Sunday’s game with Baltimore at the Trop.
“I’m such a girly-girl, one of three sisters, and this is not going to be funny,” Elliott said Monday. “For everybody else it’ll be hilarious. I’m so nervous.”
She shouldn’t be.
Whether the ball travels 50 feet or 5 feet, she is a pillar of strength.
“The rock of the family,” says husband Rob.
Shari Elliott has terminal breast cancer, yet she has waged a courageous fight against it since originally diagnosed in 1997.
It is for that reason she was selected by Major League Baseball and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization as one of 31 winners of the 2011 Honorary Bat Girl Contest -- a campaign to recognize baseball fans who have been affected by breast cancer and demonstrated a commitment to fighting the disease.
“I have no choice but to keep going,” Elliott said. “I’ve decided to live with cancer instead of thinking of dying of cancer. My prognosis is not good, but I intend to make the best out of every moment I have. I’ve got too many things to do here for a long, long time.”
Like seeing sons Jordan, 9, and Justin, 8, both Gullett Elementary School students, graduate from high school, college and get married.
“That’s on my bucket list,” she said. “I have to be here.”
Sunday’s event is on there, too.
Elliott applied last year -- candidates are judged by their essay and online voting -- but didn’t get it.
But she did receive an autographed pink bat from former All-Star and Tampa native Steve Garvey, courtesy of a mutual friend.
Sunday she’ll receive another from the Rays.
“I’m excited,” Elliott said. “Getting everybody’s autographs, getting to wear my Tampa Bay stuff. Sunday afternoon is good for the kids. I love Tropicana Field.”
“It’ll be great,” her husband said. “She’ll get recognized for what she does for the community, the boys get to meet their favorite players. The game is secondary. This is about making memories, a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
Eve Moor wouldn’t miss it.
“Shari humbles me,” she said of her best friend. “She’s taught me a lot about living. She puts the word fight in the phrase ‘fighting cancer.’”
Indeed, Elliott participates in many breast cancer awareness events and helps other women recently diagnosed with the disease to cope with the news.
During her own 14-year battle, she was in remission twice, yet cancer returned again.
Elliott’s younger sister gets emotional talking about it.
“There’s been bad prognosis after bad prognosis, but she comes back fighting every time,” Kim Grippaldi said from Mountain Lakes, N.J. “She won’t let anything get her down.
“She’s so loving, so giving, so positive, everything radiates around her. Why her? It’s not fair.”
Shari Elliott remains undeterred.
Besides, she’s got a big game Sunday.
“I’ve had chemo where I’ve been on the couch for days and days and in the hospital, but it’s not going to stop me,” Elliott said.
“People say I have so much courage, but it’s not that. I’m going to do what I have to do.”
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.