05/20/09 8:06 PM ET
Tompkins serves as honorary bat girl
Yankees honor woman who is battling Stage 4 melanoma
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
Engaged in small talk for a moment with Rodriguez, Tompkins -- a 38-year-old schoolteacher from Candor, N.Y., who is fighting Stage 4 melanoma, breast cancer and pancreatic cancer -- pointed up to the field-level seats behind the first-base dugout, spotting more than 100 of her friends and family.
Rodriguez glanced and said, "Let's go," and within an instant, Rodriguez and Swisher were in the stands, shaking hands and signing baseballs among the fans in a surreal scene.
"This is one of the best days of my life, I think," Tompkins said. "It sounds so cliché, but it's amazing that my friends and family can spend it with me. And I met Derek Jeter! A-Rod and Swisher were so nice, not that Derek Jeter wasn't. But that was pretty incredible that they went and acknowledged my family that way."
Tompkins was honored by the Yankees as part of a conjunction promotion between Major League Baseball and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which recognizes baseball fans who are going to bat against cancer in their daily lives. She was nominated for the honor by Kate Handy, a second-grade teacher at Tompkins' school.
A first-grade teacher and self-proclaimed Yankees fanatic, Tompkins' cancer was diagnosed in April. She wore a bright pink bandanna on the field, meeting and greeting her favorite Yankees. Upon greeting Alfredo Aceves, she commented how all the players are more handsome in person.
"It means so much to me," Tompkins said. "It's taken my mind off of something so difficult in my life. It just shows me how many friends and family love me and got me here today. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for my amazing friends and family."
Reggie Jackson stopped by for a hug and signed an autograph, and Joe Girardi waved into the seats, telling Tompkins not to worry about scaling the full mound for the ceremonial first pitch. She would one-hop it to Swisher underhand before the game.
"I'm glad you're here," Girardi told her, "and we look forward to seeing you at 7 o'clock."
Tompkins said she woke up at 4 a.m. ET on Wednesday and couldn't sleep. There was a sendoff ceremony at the Candor Elementary School -- the hundred-plus pink shirts read, "Polly-palooza" -- and a parade of fire trucks, ambulances and police vehicles helped start her three-hour journey to New York.
"I'm so lucky," Tompkins said. "I'm truly blessed. You take each day one at a time and you live in the moment. And this is a moment I will not forget for a long time."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.