Cancer hits home for Mariners broadcaster – but doesn’t win
Presented by Premera Blue Cross
As a broadcaster covering Mariners baseball for ROOTSPORTS, Angie Mentink likes to keep things lighthearted.
“The worst thing in my business is, someone loses,” says Mentink, 45. Her love of baseball dates back to her childhood, when the self-described Navy brat would spend her free time hitting balls or organizing pick-up games with her five siblings.
As a member of the ROOT SPORTS broadcast team at Mariners games, she mixes serious reporting with banter during interviews, and frequently finds herself out on the field or in the batting cage with players. She was even the focus of a practical joke by players Guillermo Heredia and Danny Valencia, who drenched her with a bucket of purple Gatorade after a Mariners walk-off win last July. A YouTube video that captured the shenanigans has been viewed more than 17,000 times.
But even Mentink couldn’t find the funny one day last September. Mentink was in the shower when she received a call from her doctor. She’d had a suspicious mammogram a couple weeks earlier, then a follow-up biopsy to take a closer look, and had been awaiting the results. She wrapped herself in a towel, dried off one ear, and scrambled to grab a pen and paper. Despite the seriousness of her earlier procedures, she was unprepared for what she would hear.
Mentink had breast cancer.
“It was a shock to the system,” she remembers. “I had felt so invincible. Then all of a sudden I’m a statistic.”
Next came the difficult task of telling her family. Mentink wandered into the kitchen, still dripping wet, and found her husband, Jarrett.
“I told him ‘I’m sorry,’” says Mentink. “I felt sorry for not being well; that I (was) sick and (he was) going to have to deal with it.”
Mentink hesitated to immediately share the news with their children (Jaxen, now 13 and Chase, now 11). Jarrett took charge. He calmly told the boys about their mother’s diagnosis, explained that it was caught early, told them to grab their water bottles, then took them to basketball practice.
“Then I started bawling again,” Mentink says. “I cried all night.”
‘You couldn’t drag me off the field’
As a child, Mentink was an avid baseball fan and dreamed of growing up to become a professional baseball player. As part of a military family, she went to three different high schools, playing softball at each of them. Because her family moved so often, she never had a chance to play select sports, despite her talent; something that ended up working in her favor.
“Other kids were petering out,” says Mentink. “You couldn’t drag me off the field.”
She was recruited to play softball at Central Arizona College, where she was a two-time All-American and won two NJCAA national championships. The University of Washington caught wind of her talent and brought her on as a member of its inaugural women’s softball team in 1993. She became the first Husky softball player to earn All-Pac 10 and All-American honors while topping the Pac 10 conference in hits, runs and stolen bases. She was also the first softball player to be inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame. Her childhood dream eventually came true when she joined the Colorado Silver Bullets, the first women’s professional baseball team since 1954.
Mentink’s foray into broadcasting came while she was still in college in the form of an internship with Prime Sports Network. That gig eventually morphed into a full-time position with ROOT SPORTS, where she’s worked as a reporter on pre-game shows, served as an anchor on the network’s day and night shows, hosted magazine shows featuring both the Mariners and the Seahawks, and is now one of the faces of the network.
Sharing her story
Mentink took a rare night off from work after she received the call from her doctor. To get ahead of any speculation about her health, she Tweeted about her diagnosis before the Mariners played that night. She watched the game from home, and was warmed by the support she received: Fans in the stands held “#Angiestrong” signs, fellow broadcasters lent their support and the Mariners signed a pink bat for her, which is proudly displayed in her home.
Treatment for Mentink’s cancer involved the removal of cancerous tissue in her breast and five weeks of high-dose radiation treatment. On the last day or treatment, she and her family boarded a plane for 10 days in Hawaii, “even though I was burnt to a crisp,” Mentink jokes.
Mentink had a chance to show her fans her strength this summer when she threw out the first pitch at the Mariners’ August 17 home game. Her younger son, Chase, caught the pitch. The event was in recognition of the Mariners’ “Steals for the Cure” campaign, an effort sponsored by Premera Blue Cross to raise money for breast cancer organization Susan G. Komen Puget Sound. Mentink and Premera presented an initial check for $30,000 to the nonprofit, with the promise of an additional $500 for every base the Mariners steal in remaining games this season.
The money will be used to fund breast cancer research, patient assistance programs and mobile mammography in rural areas, says David Richart, executive director of Komen Puget Sound.
“Every penny that we raise here goes to that and we’re very, very grateful to Premera for their support this year, last year, and all the years they’ve been working with Komen Puget Sound,” says Richart.
Funding for breast cancer research and screenings is close to the hearts of Premera employees. Brenda Frost, Premera’s senior manager of healthcare services communications, is herself a breast cancer survivor. She’s proud of her company’s support of Komen and the work the organization is doing to help women — especially those who don’t have easy access to health care.
“There are still so many people who live in health care ‘deserts,’” Frost says. These women may have cultural or language barriers keeping them from preventative care. The money donated by Premera and raised by the Steals campaign helps Komen bring their services to those who may not have access otherwise.
Luckily for Mentink, a mammogram was within easy reach. She realized she’d skipped her annual screening the previous year and that her family had not yet depleted the money in their tax-free health care spending account. The mammogram ended up detecting the cancer early, saving her from more invasive treatment. “Luckily something pushed me to make that appointment,” she says.
“You know what you need to do to get that mammogram,” Mentink tells people now. “Just do it.”
Mentink, a Premera member, describes throwing out the first pitch at the Steals for the Cure event as a highlight — both for herself and for her family — in a year that’s had its share of challenges.
“It was an opportunity to get in front of people and show them that I am well,” says Mentink, whose follow-up scans have shown no evidence of disease. “I have gone through this and I am here and I am back. And I’m not going anywhere.”
Premera's purpose is to improve customers' lives by making healthcare work better. We provide health coverage and related services to approximately 2.1 million people in Washington and Alaska. Premera Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. For more information, visit www.premera.com