When Kaitlon Busser kicks and delivers at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field on Memorial Day, she knows her biggest fan will have a great seat for her performance.
“I think I’ll just keep in mind, ‘This one’s for you, mom,’ and hope for the best,” said Kaitlon, whose mother, Susan, lost her battle with breast cancer March 13. “She’ll either be really proud or really embarrassed.”
Throwing out the ceremonial first pitch will be just one of the ways she’ll celebrate her mother’s life as one of Major League Baseball’s honorary bat girls. The 19-year-old Newman graduate submitted a photo and a short story to MLB.com shortly after he mom passed.
In early May, she got the call from the Cubs.
“I was in awe; I was speechless,” Kaitlon said.
She’ll get to be on the field during batting practice, and the team engraved a pink bat for her. It means the world to her, because her mother was a bona fide sports fanatic – a former multi-sport prep star who lit up whenever she attended a professional game.
“Going to a professional game, that was her place,” Kaitlon said. “She was not happier anywhere else.”
Except, perhaps, when she got to watch her kids – Kaitlon, Dylon (21) and Jason (25) – in action. Susan was diagnosed when Kaitlon was in the fifth grade but never missed a beat, scheduling all her chemotherapy sessions around her three children’s events.
“She never missed one game, not one, throughout high school,” Kaitlon said.
Susan experienced three relapses over 8 years. Her unshakable positive outlook buoyed her family’s spirits, as did their faith in God.
“Our family has a very positive outlook on everything,” Kaitlon said. “We’re very faithful, and we know prayer goes a long way.”
But it finally hit Kaitlon hard when she returned home from Indiana University in February. She found out her mom was being sent home, and that treatment was no longer an option.
“Nothing can prepare you for your last times together,” Kaitlon said.
Kaitlon takes satisfaction in knowing her mom is reunited with Dylon’s twin, Damon, who passed away when he was 2 months old – on Mother’s Day, no less.
“We look at it as a positive that we can be happy for her, because she’s with him in heaven,” Kaitlon said.
While she called cancer a “cowardly disease” in her written submission, Kaitlon’s far from angry. After all, she’s her mother’s daughter.
“She never let cancer define her,” Kaitlon said. “If you didn’t know her, you wouldn’t have known. She never would’ve said, ‘It’s not fair,’ or “Why me?’ ”
This August, Kaitlon and Dylon will walk 60 miles in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day in Chicago. It’ll be their fourth such trek and, in taking it on, they’ll have raised $50,000 for treatment and awareness.
“We were always walking for her, and she was always at Soldier Field waiting for us,” Kaitlon said. “This year, obviously, it will be tougher, knowing we won’t see her at the finish line this time around.”
Jason also raised funds, but was in a serious car accident just a week before their walk in 2009.
“His prognosis was that he’d never walk again, and he is,” Kaitlon said. “It’s pretty amazing.”
It’s modern miracles like that one that carry her along. And the daily reminders that mom is watching over her – whether it be Colbie Caillat’s “Bubbly” coming on the radio or her stepfather, Bob Venier, getting a little help on the links.
The family lives on Timber Creek Golf Course, where Kaitlon works during the summer, and where her mom spent countless hours caddying for Bob.
A few days ago, he wrote “Honey” on his golf balls in honor of his main squeeze before going out for a round. On one hole, he lost a shot deep into the thick stuff left of the fairway. As he searched through the trees, his friend called, “Isn’t this your ball?”
“It was right on the green,” Kaitlon said. “He said, ‘I know that was her.’ ”
Honoring her mom earns an honor
To read Kaitlon’s story, visit: mlb.mlb.com/honorarybatgirl/2012/gallery.jsp