The Pierannunzi family, GT softball showed the power of family in Saturday’s StrikeOut Cancer games
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Samantha Pierannunzi is assured of having her greatest season this year.
This is normally the point where a litany of statistics and accomplishments follows, but that’s not necessary in this case.
For the senior centerfielder from Suwanee, Ga., an unforgettable season was assured in early February in San Juan, at the Puerto Rico Tournament, when she looked into the stands and caught a glimpse of her mom, Jeannie, cheering on the Yellow Jackets. Seeing her mom every home weekend or talking to her on the phone following every road game is further reassurance.
Jeannie Pierannunzi is going through her second bout with breast cancer. After being cancer-free for some 15 years, it returned this past summer.
“When they told me that in August, I basically didn’t think my mom was going to be healthy enough to come to a single game,” said Pierannunzi. “She’s been at almost every single game that I’ve played in and [on Saturday] got to run out to center field with me, like completely healthy, cancer-free, and that’s crazy.”
On Saturday afternoon at Mewborn Field, Jeannie Pierannunzi was one of many women that could proudly call themselves cancer survivors or fighters against the scourge. All wore pink. The Yellow Jackets wore pink as well in the annual sign of unity known as StrikeOut Cancer.
The team is auctioning its game-worn pink jerseys. (To bid on a jersey, all of which are autographed by the team, visit http://buzz.gt/SB17_JerseyAuction. All bids are accepted in $10 increments and bidding goes until April 1 at noon.
“It was a great day. We had a good crowd, lots of pink in the stands,” said head coach Shelly Hoerner. “It’s very meaningful, with Sam’s mom. She’s come to almost every game; I think she’s missed two in the season. That’s huge for Sam to know. She’s a special lady to our program. It just means a lot.”
As the Yellow Jackets took the field, Samantha went behind the plate as Jeannie took the circle. She’d been there before and had pitched before, but this time was different. This was the last season the Pierannunzi’s would kick off this day, as Samantha graduates in May. Hoerner, as did all the fans and players, were riveted on the field.
“When they were announcing, I was watching them, their eyes did not go off of each other,” Hoerner said. “Then she threw the pitch and then the embrace, at that point was amazing. The team gave her flowers and hugs. That was pretty neat.”
On a day when 699 pitches would be thrown by pitchers from Georgia Tech and North Dakota State in the two games, there may not have been a more powerful pitch than that ceremonial first.
“The day in general is special because it’s bigger than the game. It is LIFE,” said Hoerner. “It’s about playing for something bigger. I told the team beforehand, if we could take one ounce of fight from ‘Super J,’ (Jeannie’s nickname) just one ounce and put it into our lives, we would be better off. You have to enjoy life every day. You never know when it’s going to be taken away.
“I also told the girls before, ‘You don’t know how strong you are until you have to be,’” she added. “Obviously, ‘Super J’ has had to be, with a positive attitude. In my opinion, she is the epitome of a wonderful woman and a mother that just fights to the end. Whether she’s hurting or not, or in pain, she’s never shown that. Her smile’s contagious. She’s been contagious to the rest of the team. Not just Sam but to the team and the staff and I think that’s pretty cool.”
Samantha thinks it’s pretty cool to have been able to wear the Georgia Tech uniform -- especially the pink one -- for four years to help raise awareness. She knows first-hand the importance of spreading awareness for breast cancer.
“I knew I was lucky to play at an incredible school and in an incredible program and the opportunities that this school gives me. But then on top of that I get to put on a pink uniform. To me that means a lot because breast cancer awareness is really important,” she said. “Raising awareness for this cause is what gave me my mom today. My mom is self-detected, which means she found her own cancer both times. If she didn’t have the knowledge that she needed, if her doctors didn’t have the technology or the knowledge or the skills that they had, then my mom wouldn’t be here today. It’s because people raise awareness, people raise money and people pour into a cause. To me that’s really special to do that as well.
“If I get to put on a uniform and represent and raise awareness and that means there are other girls out there that will have their moms in their lives because they’ll have the things that they need, they’ll have the tools they need to fight this battle,” she said. “It’s not just technology. It’s standing together for someone. Standing together, knowing that you have people around you that are going through it, too. I think that’s the biggest thing. My team has gotten me through this. My team and my coaches. So it’s incredible to get to contribute to get to a cause like this. It’s incredible and I’m proud of it!”
She’s as proud of her mom.
“She’s doing awesome,” said Samantha. “Nothing stopped her while she was going through it and it’s certainly not stopping her now.”
For more information on the Susan G. Komen Foundation of Greater Atlanta please visit: http://komenatlanta.org/.